New Health Minister Daniela Filipiová has said she believes a new draft healthcare reform bill which has already made it through the Senate will make it through the lower house as well. The bill modifies the system of health care fees which were introduced in the Czech Republic in 2008. Under the draft, children under 18 would no longer have to pay the statutory 30-crown (1.4 USD) fee per visit to the doctor, and the maximum yearly fee paid by any one individual would be halved to 2,500 crowns (116 USD). The proposals would cut the government’s income from healthcare fees by around 3 billion crowns (139 million USD) a year. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Ms Filipiová said that she had received assurance from non-affiliated MPs that they would support the bill, she said that some opposition Social Democrats may also vote in favour of the legislation.
Head of the Czech Green Party Martin Bursík has called the speech given by US Vice President Joe Biden at a NATO security conference ‘ambiguous’. In Munich on Saturday, Mr Biden said that the United States would press ahead with plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic, should these plans be cost effective, and should the technology be proven to work. Speaking to TV Prima on Sunday, Environment Minister Mr Bursík called on the Czech government to wait for new US President Barack Obama to clarify his stance on the radar base before approving it in Parliament. Plans for an anti-missile defence shield to be situated some 90 kilometers from Prague have already been approved by the Czech Senate. They were due to be debated this week in the Chamber of Deputies, but the Green Party voted with the opposition Social Democrats to have the debate postponed.
In tennis, the Czech Republic has won its first-round Fed Cup tie against Spain 4:1. The Czechs were level with Spain going into day two of the fixture, with Petra Kvitova having beaten Carla Suarez and Czech number one Iveta Benesova losing out to Nuria Llagostera. On Sunday, however, the Czech team won all of the matches it played. The Czech Republic will now go on to play either Argentina or the USA on April 25.
A depot full of illegal German waste burned down on Saturday evening in North Bohemia, with firefighters suspecting the cause to be arson. The depot was filled with waste textiles, imported illegally from Germany. The fire badly damaged the store, which was 50 x 30 metres in size. This is not the first such fire in region surrounding Frydlant, along the German border. In the last two years, firefighters have battled with three such depot fires. Recently in the region, environmental health inspectors have discovered 3062 tonnes of plastic, and 5357 tonnes of textiles imported illegally from Germany and stored particularly in agricultural outbuildings.
Meanwhile, economic adviser to the government Miroslav Zamečník said on Sunday that he thought economic growth could fall by up to two percent if the state did not intervene. Speaking on TV station Prima, Mr Zamečník said that this would be the worst growth rate the country had experienced since 1993. Mr Zamečník is preparing a fiscal stimulus package with other leading Czech economists as part of the NERV committee advising the government. In the interview, the economist identified two major reasons, why, he said the Czech economy was faltering. Firstly, he said, a sharp drop in the number of foreign contracts was harming industry, and secondly, a nosedive in the number of foreign tourists visiting the country was hurting the service industry.
The Czech national ice-hockey team lost 3:6 to Russia in Stockholm on Sunday, ending the LG Hockey Games in last place. The Czechs had already lost to home team Sweden 4:6 on Saturday, after which the team’s assistant coach Josef Jandač remained upbeat. The Czech Republic now goes home with the wooden spoon from the four-nation tournament, which was won on Sunday night by Sweden.
At a regional meeting, the Social Democrats resolved to try and block the sale of Prague’s Ruzyně airport. Social Democrats from the Central Bohemian region agreed on Saturday to do everything within their power to block the sale of the airport, which is currently being mooted by the government. According to the Social Democrats, selling the airport in the current financial crisis would result in the state asset fetching far less than it would otherwise be worth. Regional party head Richard Dolejš said that the government should not, in the current circumstances, be selling off the ‘family silver’.
The Governor of the Czech National Bank, Zdeněk Tůma, has said that he expects there to be a second sharp economic downturn in the second half of this year. Speaking on Czech Television on Sunday, Mr Tůma said that the Czech economy had already suffered one such downturn at the beginning of this year. On Thursday, the National Bank revised its predictions for economic growth this year. Instead of the 2.9 percent growth it predicted two months ago, the bank said it was prepared for the economy to shrink by 0.3 percent.
And finally, a new world record was set in Prague on Sunday – for the biggest ever cappuccino. Over 80 baristas prepared 300 litres worth of espresso and 1700 litres of foamed milk as part of the Top Gastro 2009 Fair at Prague’s Výstaviště. The record-breaking cappuccino was served in one giant mug. The record for the world’s largest cappuccino was previously held by Italians Ettore Diana and Luca Braguti, who prepared a 1250-litre coffee in 2002.
Czech speed skater Martina Sáblíková has taken the gold medal at the World Championships in Hamar, Norway. Sunday’s victory was Sáblíková’s first in a multi-discipline competition. After four races, Sáblíková won gold with a lead of nearly half a second over Canadian Kristina Groves, who came second. The twenty-one year old Czech was sitting fourth with one race left, in her strongest event, the 5000 metres. After the competition, Sáblíková told journalists that she felt she was having her best season to date.