Prague mayor under fire for going to work with whooping cough

Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda

The mayor of Prague, Bohuslav Svoboda, is in hot water after admitting to not staying home despite having whooping cough. Mr. Svoboda, a medical doctor by profession, is now facing a criminal complaint for spreading an infectious disease.

After losing his temper over a political matter, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda told members of the lower house’s Health Committee that he had no time for such nonsense as he had come despite just having treatment for whooping cough.

Prague City Hall | Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio

“I came because I’ve been on antibiotics for six days so I’m no longer infectious,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting, while audibly coughing – and admitting he was not well. The meeting had been running for about three hours and Mr. Svoboda had not had his mouth covered.

A colleague sitting next to him, Romana Bělohlávková, who like the mayor is a medical doctor, replied that the situation required him to at least wear a respirator.

The Civic Democrat mayor of Prague, who is 80 years old, is also a sitting MP and headed the Health Committee himself in the past.

Mr. Svoboda’s actions have sparked many comments since the story emerged, at a time when Czechia is facing levels of whooping cough not seen in many years.

Public health officials have confirmed that people with whooping cough have to stay in isolation until the end of their antibiotic treatment.

Meanwhile, the Prague branch of the Green Party is calling for Mr. Svoboda to resign. What’s more, it said it was filing a criminal complaint against him for “spreading a contagious disease.”

Matěj Žaloudek is a councillor for the Greens in Prague 3.

“Maybe you can say there are two points of view. One is symbolic and one is just legal. He basically did an illegal thing because he didn’t obey the Public Health Office quarantine. He just went to work, which is a criminal act.

“The second one is the symbolic point of view, which is also very important, because he’s the mayor of the capital city and we think he sets a standard.

“He should be maybe a role model for many people and he’s actually sending a message to many, many people that if you are in quarantine you can just go out.

“He he also sent a message that maybe he, as a politician, has more rights than other people. And we simply don’t think that’s right.”

He also said, though, that he had been taking antibiotics for six days already and therefore was no longer infectious. He is a doctor – maybe he was right in this regard?

“Yes, maybe, maybe not. But there are some rules.

“He’s a member of Parliament. He’s one of the people who are setting these rules and these rules are saying that you should stay at home as long as you are taking this medicine.

“And if the rules are not correct you should change them as an MP, and not make a personal example.”