Doctors report a flu epidemic in seven of the Czech Republic's fourteen regions. Elsewhere there is a heightened incidence of the flu and viral infections and doctors fear that the wave of milder weather will only make things worse. People have been advised to avoid crowded places and increase their intake of vitamin C. Children and elderly people are considered particularly vulnerable. Flu epidemics have been reported from a number of European countries over the past few days.
Speaking on Czech Radio on Friday, President Vaclav Klaus said the scandal surrounding Prime Minister Gross was "most unfortunate". This will damage the Czech Republic's credibility both at home and abroad, the President said, adding that he personally regretted the fact that this affair would make Czechs more sceptical than ever about Czech politics and politicians.
The Czech Republic is to send another 40 soldiers to Afghanistan in March, according to the Defence Ministry. The Czech troops will serve in a German-led NATO reconstruction team, and will be based near the town of Fayzabad in the north of the country; they will focus on maintaining security, protecting international units and co-operation with local people. The Czech Republic already has a 15-member Army team in Kabul; it deals with explosives and takes part in weather and geographical observation.
Around 60 percent of Czech voters would like to see Prime Minister
Stanislav Gross resign from office, suggests an opinion poll published in
Friday's edition of the daily Lidove noviny. Mr Gross - who for some time
was one of the most popular politicians in the country - has come under
increasing pressure recently, after failing to explain how he had paid for
his luxury flat in Prague.
The prime minister has insisted he will not step down over the affair, which he has described as "artificial", and part of an orchestrated campaign against him. Speaking in the Lower House on Thursday, Mr Gross reiterated that he would undergo security screening in order to clear his name.
The Czech Republic's ice hockey team have lost their first game at the Swedish Games in Stockholm. The Czechs were beaten 3:2 by the hosts after the game went to penalties. Their next match is against Finland on Saturday. The Swedish Games are part of the four-nation Euro Hockey Tour, in which the Czech Republic are ranked third.
The Lower House of Parliament on Friday narrowly rejected a bill on same sex partnerships. Following heated debate and several previous rejections in the Lower House, the bill was short of just one vote for approval. Representatives of the Association of Gays and Lesbians said they were disappointed but would continue to lobby for it. The law would have given gays and lesbians the right to marry, to inherit property from their partners and enquire about their partner's state of health. It would not have enabled them to adopt a child. The bill's opponents, predominantly of the Christian Democratic Party, argue that it would undermine the institution of the family in Czech society.
The Czech Republic's national air carrier Czech Airlines transported a record 4.34 million passengers last year, up from 3.6 million in 2003 and 3 million the year before, a Czech Airlines spokeswoman said. By preliminary un-audited results, the carrier made a profit of more than 250 million crowns (or around 10 million dollars) in 2004 after years of losses. Last year Czech Airlines also added ten new destinations. Passengers were mostly interested in flights to London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York and Moscow. In 2004 Czech Airlines extended its fleet, having acquired ten new planes, the highest number in its history, and operating a total of 45 aircraft at the end of the year. Czech Airlines operates Boeing 737s, ATRs and Airbus 310s.
The Czech government estimates that almost a quarter of Czechs can make themselves understood in English. According to government official Ivan Fisera, the Czech Republic scored better than for example Latvia, Portugal, Poland and Hungary. The government of Stanislav Gross has put forward a new plan called "English for Everyone" aiming to improve the nation's knowledge of the language. Sixty-seven percent of primary school children over ten years of age learn English as their main compulsory language, which is the third lowest percentage in this age group in Europe.
The Czech Republic supports Ukraine's suggestion that the visa regime between the two states should be simplified. After a meeting with the chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn, the Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said that the process needs to respect European Union's regulations. He suggested that visas should be abolished for the Czech Republic's citizens, and the citizens of Ukraine would acquire them free of charge in a simplified procedure. Mr Svoboda also said the Czech Republic would like to strengthen its political and economic relations with Ukraine after the recent political changes in the country.
The Czech Republic is sending 40 new soldiers to Afghanistan in March to strengthen its contingent in the country. The new unit will serve in the north of Afghanistan as part of the NATO forces operating there. The Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl has said the team of Czech and Danish soldiers will be commanded by German officers. Its main task will be maintaining security in the province and protecting the international military units.
Martin Nekola: Czech Chicago and other untold stories of Czechs abroad
Czech President Zeman addresses Council of Europe
How should socialist architecture be treated now?
Czech pre-election battle plugs into war of words over lithium mining deal
Czech ministry mulls massive recruitment of foreign workers to fill jobs