The Ministry of Health reports that two people have died in the last week of swine flu-related illnesses, bringing the total number of deaths in the Czech Republic to 100. Meanwhile, only roughly one fourth of the available vaccine dosages have been utilised in the country. The state originally ordered one million dosages at a cost of 220 million crowns; a quarter of that was delivered by the end of 2009 and the remainder has been manufactured but is being stored by the producer GSK. The Health Ministry is currently involved in negotiations with the drug manufacturer on reimbursement for the unused dosages. The application of the vaccine has met with reluctance among Czechs; last week 500 people had themselves vaccinated, more than a thousand less than the week before.
The region of Prague is the fifth wealthiest in Europe, according to data released Thursday by the European statistical office Eurostat. The data reflects the purchasing power standard of the individual regions of Europe in 2007 and by that measure puts Prague behind Hamburg and slightly ahead of Paris city centre. London city centre topped the list with nearly twice the buying power of Prague, or 334% of the EU standard, followed by Luxemburg and Brussels. The Czech Republic as a whole however fared much worse, with the national average amounting to 80% of the EU average. Also, some of the poorest regions in the EU were also found in the Czech Republic, particularly north-western Bohemia, which showed a purchasing power standard of 62% of the EU standard.
Historian Jiří Pernes is set to become the new director of the Czech Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, the institute’s spokesman said on Wednesday. The institute’s council chose Mr Pernes over four other candidates who applied for the post, including the institute’s current director, Pavel Žáček. Mr Žáček faced criticism over the publication of an article by one of the institute’s researchers which accused the writer Milan Kundera of collaborating with Czechoslovakia’s communist secret police, allegations rejected by Mr Kundera and questioned by other experts.
A paratrooper from the 43rd Airborne Mechanised Battalion in Chrudim was fatally injured during a training session on Wednesday night after his parachute failed to open. He died in hospital a few hours later. The military has refused to comment on the incident pending the outcome of an investigation by the military police. A similar accident happened at Chrudim airport last year when paratroopers were testing a new type of parachute acquired by the army. A Defence Ministry spokesperson said the soldier’s family had been informed of the tragedy.
Dagmar Tauchenová, who helped her husband to escape from prison last year
by opening fire on his police escort, could receive a lighter sentence or
even probation under the new criminal code. Ms. Tauchenová was charged
last year with extortion, assault on a public servant and obstruction of
justice, which at the time carried a sentence of up to eight years in
prison. However, under the new criminal code, which took effect at the
beginning of this year, her offences have been reclassified as ‘freeing a
prisoner’, which entails a maximum five years imprisonment or suspended
prosecution. The latter sentence would have to be proposed by the state
prosecutor and approved by the court.
Ms Tauchenová’s husband had been sentenced to five years for safe-cracking and was being transferred to a hospital when she shot at on his police escort and both escaped. Police caught up with the couple shortly afterwards and Ms Tauchenová was shot and her husband committed suicide.
The Czech energy giant ČEZ stopped on Wednesday disconnecting users
suspected of stealing electricity. The company’s head, Martin Roman said
such interventions in the past were in line with Czech law but admitted
they did not always follow the firm’s code of ethics. ČEZ will now file
lawsuits against customers suspected of stealing electricity, instead of
immediately disconnecting them from the grid.
ČEZ has recently been criticized over harsh treatment of its customers who the company suspected of stealing electricity. Several media outlets also published video footage earlier this month depicting the paramilitary-style training of the firm’s anti-theft unit.
The STEM polling agency has published its latest survey of voting preferences showing a stronger position for the centre-right Civic Democratic Party but a lasting and solid lead for their rivals, the Social Democrats. The results show the latter party having lost less than 1% of their standing in the company’s January poll, while the Civic Democrats have gained an additional nine hypothetical seats in parliament. TOP 09 and the Communist Party kept the same results, with 19 and 31 seats, respectively. Meanwhile the new Věci veřejné, (Public Affairs), party stayed just below the five percent threshold needed to win a place in parliament. The survey also suggest voter turnout of 54%, which is the highest since spring of 2009. Parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic are scheduled for May.
The presiding judge in the case that banned the far-right Workers’ Party on Wednesday says there is nothing to prevent the same people from creating a new party with the same name and even logo. Judge Vojtěch Šimíček explained on Thursday that the party was only illegal based on the combined evidence against it – primary amongst was neo-Nazis involvement in its leadership – and that circumstantial evidence such as the party’s symbolism or name were not themselves prohibited. The court ruled Wednesday that the Workers’ Party promotes xenophobia and chauvinism while exploiting homophobia and fear of foreigners and immigrants. Worker’s Party chairman Tomáš Vandas said the group would appeal the ruling and run in May’s general elections.
The Czech Republic’s ice hockey players have gotten off to a winning start at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, with a 3:1 victory over their old federal partners Slovakia. The Czechs went ahead through captain Patrik Eliáš after 10 minutes, before the Slovaks drew level at the start of the second period. However, they could find no reply to two more Czech goals in two minutes at the end of the second period from Jaromír Jágr and Tomáš Plekanec. Jágr is the only player in the Czech team who was part of the squad that won the gold in the Olympics in Japan’s Nagano in 1998.
A fire broke out at the Dukovany nuclear power plant on Wednesday in one of the station’s technical facilities. Operations at the plant were not jeopardised and no one was injured. Dukovany spokesman Petr Spilka said that the fire had been caused by a technical malfunction and estimated damages at 50,000 crowns. Fires in recent years have been the most common cause of accidents in the Dukovany power plant. A similar fire in 2007 was caused by negligence on the part of a contractor firm. The most serious accident occurred in 1996, when four people were injured in an explosion of acetone gas.