Press Review

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The most capturing headline today is Vecernik Praha's question "Who was infected with deadly bacteria?". The paper writes that health care workers at a Prague hospital have been undergoing preventive treatment after having been exposed to a young man who later died from a rare strain of Tuberculosis, previously thought to be extinct. The man - who was Slovak - had lived in Prague for over a month and we are yet to find out, the paper writes, how many people may have been infected.

A worker at the hospital tells the paper that the young man's x-rays had led doctors to believe that he had a lung problem. He was therefore put on a respiratory machine instead of on anti-bacterial treatment. It was only some days later, when the test results came in, that the hospital staff were made aware that he was suffering from TB. Although the patient had only been in the hospital for five hours, there is a chance that he passed the infection on as the respiratory machine did not have a filter and all the bacteria was blown into the open air, putting all those working in the ward at risk of infection. Some 14 nurses are now undergoing a 6-month course of preventive treatment, Vecernik Praha writes.

And staying with health care, Mlada fronta Dnes reports on new medication which has proved promising in the fight against leukaemia. It writes that the results of the first wave of tests performed on Czechs in the past year have been quite positive. The medication, unlike other anti-cancer treatments, only attacks the affected cells and has proven effective on several patients whose conditions failed to improve with other medication.

STI 571, also known as Glivec, is used for chronic myeloid leukaemia, the type that the former Czech MP Josef Lux died from in 1999, the paper writes. Although doctors agree that the use of Glivec would most probably have increased Mr Lux's chances of getting effective treatment, many warn that the medication only helps to prolong a patient's life. Experts tell the paper that the only hope for a cure continues to be bone marrow transplant, where the patient is still at risk of not surviving the operation.

Today's Lidove noviny looks at the upcoming parliamentary elections and evaluates the chances of the Prague candidates. The elections are to take place at the end of May or the beginning of June, and the paper's Petr Fischer comments that a rather interesting battle is beginning to develop in the Czech capital. He says that the Civic Democrat Chairman Vaclav Klaus' strongest opposition are two women - Petra Buzkova from the ruling Social Democrats and Freedom Union leader Hana Marvanova.

According to Mr Fischer, the chances of Petra Buzkova - who he points out has been the most popular Czech female politician for quite a while - winning the elections are low as Prague voters have traditionally been right-of-centre. Hana Marvanova, he says, will be Klaus' strongest opponent. Having been a former Civic Democrat and Klaus follower, the elections will be a chance to show him that she too is an expert in the field. Mr Fischer, however remains sceptical, concluding that it takes more than this to defeat Mr Klaus, whom he describes as rather hyperactive in the media.

Today's Hospodarske noviny writes that the government's attempt to privatise its stake in the energy sector has not been going according to plan and is proving to be more complicated than expected. The paper says that it was informed by sources close to Electricite de France - one of the top bidders - that it had submitted a new offer to the government's privatisation commission, to pay 213 billion Czech crowns for the power utility CEZ and six regional power distribution companies. Although this is 13 billion crowns over the set minimum price, Hospodarske noviny says that the commission has not accepted the offer as one of its conditions include significant changes in the purchase contract.

The second main bidder, the Italian-Spanish consortium Enel - Iberdrola is said to have offered a price of 140 billion Czech crowns - similar to its first offer last year in December. So far, none of the leading politicians involved in the privatisation process have commented on the latest developments as the Czech government is expected to make a final decision on the privatisation process during its session on Wednesday.