Musicians Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard kicked off a new European tour at Prague’s Lucerna Hall on Monday night. The Czech-Irish duo, who won an Academy Award for the song Falling Slowly in 2008, were promoting their new album Strict Joy; it was produced as part of a band project called the Swell Season that also features members of Hansard’s group The Frames. They are set to play in Brno on Tuesday night, before a series of dates around the continent. Markéta Irglová, who is 21, is the only Czech woman ever to have won an Oscar.
The number of licensed taxi drivers in the Czech capital rose by 12 percent last year, with 5,900 registered by the end of 2009. Prague City Hall says its figures also show an improvement in the quality of taxi services in the city. Officials say checks revealed that drivers overcharged for 11 percent of rides in 2007; in 2009 similar checks uncovered overcharging in only 1 percent of cases. There was also a significant fall in the amount taxi companies were fined.
Meanwhile, the Czech president, Václav Klaus, who has described the whole issue of swine flu as overblown, has hit out at Michael Vít. Mr Klaus was quoted by novinky.cz as saying he wished Mr Vít a speedy recovery, but was “very surprised” that he had not himself been vaccinated against the disease considering that he had forced through mandatory inoculation. The Czech president last week came out strongly against a plan to vaccinate all Czech soldiers against the H1N1 virus; the idea was later dropped. To date 95 people have died in the Czech Republic after contracting swine flu.
The ice hockey clubs Sparta Prague and Zlín have been fined CZK 100,000 after mass fighting between their players during a game in the Czech Extraliga. Two Zlín players also received suspensions, as did one Sparta player. During Sunday’s match, which Zlín won 4:1, seven players from each side were sent off after a series of fights, with an Extraliga record of 439 penalty minutes imposed.
Prague Airport handled almost one million fewer passengers in 2009 than in the previous year, according to information posted on its website. Some 11.64 million passengers passed through the airport last year, a fall of 8 percent on 2008. The decrease has been blamed on the financial crisis. The first quarter of 2009 in particular saw a marked reduction in flights from Prague Airport, said a representative.
Logica Czech Republic has won a 328-million-crown public tender to organise state secondary school leaving exams, which are due to be held for the first time in 2011. The company will provide logistical services for the exams for the following five years. Plans to bring in standardised school leaving exams have been put on ice several times in the past. The minister of education in the caretaker Czech government, Miroslava Kopicová, said on Tuesday that she would step down if Parliament does not approve their introduction.
The Czech Republic’s chief hygiene officer, Michael Vít, says he has probably caught the swine flu virus, the news website novinky.cz reported on Tuesday. Mr Vít said he had several symptoms of flu and was convinced it was swine flu. He had been vaccinated against regular flu, but not the H1N1 virus, saying he had planned to get a jab against the latter this week. On Monday the Czech government said that if there is an epidemic of swine flu it will be up to the chief hygiene officer to decide whether to introduce mandatory vaccinations for around 200,000 workers regarded as key to the functioning of the state.
The Czech Society for Ornithology has named the cuckoo the Czech Bird of the Year 2010. There are an estimated 35,000 to 75,000 cuckoo pairs in the Czech Republic, but their numbers have been falling for reasons that are as yet unknown to ornithologists. The decision to honour the cuckoo was motivated by a decrease in numbers of the species, as well as the fact that 2010 is the European Year of Biodiversity.
The quality of cocaine sold in the Czech Republic has fallen considerably in the last couple of years, according to experts in the field. Jakub Frydrych of the police’s anti-drug centre told reporters that the drug was diluted both in its countries of origin and by dealers in the Czech Republic. Viktor Mravčík of the government’s drug monitoring agency said whereas cocaine seized two years ago was on average 60 percent pure, last year it was only 20 percent pure. Mr Mravčík said dealers often cut cocaine with Levamisole, a substance used to de-worm animals, or Lidocaine, which is found in local anaesthetics.
A man in Loučovice, south Bohemia has become the first person in the Czech Republic to serve a sentence of “house arrest”, a new form of punishment introduced this year. The man, who is 46, will have to remain at home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. for a whole year and is forbidden from drinking alcohol. If he breaks the conditions of his punishment, he will have to serve an eight-month term in jail. His sentence followed a conviction for attacking his partner’s lover. Due to a failure to secure EU funds, electronic tags to monitor criminals at their homes will not arrive in the Czech Republic until 2011. Until then, probation officers have to visit those sentenced at home to make sure they are there.