News

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VZP releases overdue funds

The state-owned insurance company, the VZP - under forced administration - has begun sending medical facilities overdue payments worth 5.3 billion crowns, the equivalent of around 230 million US dollars. The troubled insurer had been paying doctors and facilities up to 50 days late for clients covered by VZP insurance. According to the Health Ministry, the situation should improve with payments reduced to 15 or 16 days. The move comes at a time Czech doctors have been planning protest strikes. On Thursday, the General Practitioners' Association's deputy head Jan Jelinek said that the association would now consider whether or not to end strike alert.

Cyanide levels in Labe continue to drop

Specialists have reported that following a chemical spill releasing cyanide into the Czech Republic's Labe River (Elbe) last week, concentration of the toxin in the river's waters has continued to drop. The latest water samples have shown significantly lower concentrations of cyanide further along the river, with tests also revealing that high levels of concentrated cyanide have not made it as far as the Czech Republic's northern Hrensko and Decin regions. Experts are looking into the causes of the accident, which took place at the Lucebni Zavody chemical plant last week.

At least nine tons of fish killed by the cyanide were removed from the Labe's waters. Damages have been estimated at around 2 million crowns, the equivalent of 84,000 dollars US.

Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority releases statistics on 'most fined'

The head of the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority, Jakub Sebesta, has revealed statistics showing that 18 different supermarket chains and other retailers in the Czech Republic received fines worth a total of 19 million crowns, or 800,000 US dollars in 2005. According to Mr Sebesta, the worst offender was the Ahold group, operating the Albert and Hypernova chains, fined a total of 7.6 million crowns. Ahold was followed by Julius Meinl, at 2 million, and Carrefour at 1.8 million crowns. The most common offences included improper packaging or marking of foodstuffs, as well as perishables being left on the shelf past the due date.

Figure skater Prokuronova unhurt despite 'nasty' fall at European Championships

Czech figure skater Olga Prokuronova is unhurt following a nasty fall at the European Championships on Wednesday. The Czech pairs champion and Russian-born skater crashed to the ice head-first when her partner, Karel Stefl, lost his balance. Prokuronova lay on the ice for several seconds before being helped to her feet. Hospital tests later confirmed she had suffered no serious injury.

Record number of Czechs to compete in Winter Olympics

A record number of Czech sportsmen & women - 82 in all - will compete in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy - four more than competed at Salt Lake City in 2002. Czechs are hoping to do well in an array of different sports at the Games, which start on February 10th. Hopefuls include Jakub Janda in ski jumping, Katerina Neumanova in cross-country skiing, and members of the Czech hockey team including Tomas Vokoun, Dominik Hasek, and Jaromir Jagr.

Czech women's tennis players through to third round at Australian Open

Czech tennis player Iveta Benesova has caused quite an upset at the Australian Open by knocking fifth-seed Mary Pierce of France out of the competition. Benesova will now face either Slovak-born Martina Hingis or Finland's Emma Laine in the third round. Sixteen-year-old Czech Nicole Vaidisova is also through to the third round. Meanwhile, the Czech men have not done well in Melbourne, with none of them making it past round two.

Weather

Snow has been forecast for Friday; daytime temperatures will hover at around 1 degree Celsius.