The value of public construction orders in the first half of 2009 fell by 37% compared with the last half of 2008. The number of orders has slumped similarly to 1779, a decline of one third. Experts from the engineering and consultancy firm IS, which released the analysis, stated they do not expect the situation to develop for the better in the next period either, saying they anticipate a year-on-year decline in public building orders of 10-15%
Six more cases of swine flu have been reported in the Czech Republic, bringing the number of infections in the country to 27. In the last two days the Ministry of Health has confirmed the virus in a three-year-old boy, his mother and grandmother, and in three other women. Most of the infected individuals had recently returned from the United States or the UK, however one apparently contracted the flu in her place of business in the centre of Prague, marking only the second case of domestic infection. The child is currently being monitored in hospital. Epidemiologists are anticipating a greater spread of the virus in the autumn, when they say it could mix with standard seasonal flu viruses. The Czech Republic’s chief hygiene officer Michael Vít has said it is possible to expect up to two million infections and 40,000 hospitalisations.
The South Moravian town of Miroslav has a new dumpling king in Jaromír Rafaj, who managed to devour 105 apricot dumplings in 20 minutes at the annual apricot harvest celebration. It was not enough to break the record however, 125, which remains with the contest’s five-time champion Karel Hamerský, who came in 2 dumplings shy of victory this year. An estimated 1,000 onlookers were present for the harvest celebration, which also included concerts and other contests for the “most beautiful apricot” and the best-quality apricot brandy. The Miroslav apricot harvest has been celebrated every year since 1990.
The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office has released its annual report, in which it states that the rate of criminality in the Czech Republic has not changed over the long-term, though there have been changes in the rates of particular crimes and the participation of foreigners. The report states for example that murder investigations are declining, down to 177 from 280 in 1999. Increases have been noted elsewhere however, for example in economic crimes such as customs and tax fraud. New trends have also been seen in human trafficking in the Czech Republic, particularly involving forced labour and prostitution. The Public Prosecutor’s Office also stated it could not rule out a coming rise in criminality as a result of the global economic crisis.
More than half of the holidaymakers stranded abroad by the sudden closure of the travel agency Tomi Tour have been returned to the Czech Republic. According to Tomi Tour’s insurance company, Union pojišťovna, 500 have been bussed home from Italy and Croatia, while Czech Airlines has secured the return of 1,200 from the Canary Islands, Egypt, Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. One of the largest travel agencies in the Czech Republic, Tomi Tour declared bankruptcy Friday evening, literally marooning some 3,200 of its clients on holiday outside the Czech Republic. It is the third travel agency in the Czech Republic to declare bankruptcy this summer. According to the Association of Czech Travel Agencies, its closure marks the industry’s most serious case of insolvency in the last 12 years.
The government is to discuss a new regional development plan on Monday that reportedly includes controversial plans for the Czech Republic’s nuclear power plants. The news servers Aktualne.cz and Deník.cz reported that in addition to proposing the completion of the Temelín nuclear power plant, the development plan also insinuates the construction of a third nuclear fission plant in North Moravia. Ecologists and civic organisations have bristled at the plan, which they say is ecologically and financially unsound, and should at least be left to an elected, rather than caretaker, government.
The former leader of the Green Party and environment minister, Martin Bursík, has confirmed he does not intend to return to politics. Defying expectations he would be announce his candidacy in autumn elections on Sunday, Mr Bursík instead announced he plans to devote himself to environmental issues outside of politics. In Mr Bursík’s absence, a convention of the Green Party in Prague nominated councilman Petr Štěpánek to top the ballot for the city in the October poll. After five years as Green Party chairman, Mr Bursík resigned the position in June this year after the party’s poor showing in elections to the European Parliament.
Lightning storms and bouts of torrential rain over the weekend caused isolated calamities around the Czech Republic, however no extensive flooding has been reported. In the Moravian region of Šumperk a young man was killed when a group of four tourists was struck by lightening. In the northern Bohemian region of Ústí nad Labem flash floods swept away part of a road and a small bridge; firemen reported 81 calls in the region, where waterways rose by up to a meter. In Slovakia the country’s main summer music festival ended in tragedy on Saturday when high winds brought down the four-tonne main festival tent. Hundreds of spectators were attending a concert in the tent when it collapsed, killing one man and injuring more than 50, including at least two Czechs.
The Constitutional Court has upheld a six-year prison sentence for former Communist prosecutor Ludmila Brožová-Polednová. Her defence had put forward a complaint to the court which was rejected on Friday. Mrs Brožová-Polednová is guilty of playing a role in the judicial murder of democratic politician Milada Horáková. In 1950, following a Stalinist show-trial, Mrs Horáková was sentenced to death on trumped up charges of espionage and treason.
In related news, the Romany community in Canada is filing a lawsuit against the Canadian immigration minister, Jason Kenny. The community is reportedly disconcerted by the minister’s claim that many among them are applying for asylum for no good reason, and thus complicating the situation for those truly in need of asylum in the country. According to a lawyer for the Romany community in Canada, the statement was an attempt on Mr Kenny’s part to influence the commission responsible for granting asylum, and has made it more difficult for Romany to have their applications reviewed objectively.