To counter the economic impact of the coronavirus, the Czech National Bank has twice this month cut interest rates, which now stand at 1 percent. But it has balked at quantitative easing – even though central bank governor Jiří Rusnok says the most pessimistic economic forecasts are the most realistic.
The economy should be put in neutral gear and people should take a break. That is the key recommendation of Czech economist Tomáš Sedláček for the coming weeks. He is the author of the much-celebrated bestseller Economics of Good and Evil, was the youngest advisor to the former Czech President Václav Havel and is a member of several prestigious international institutions. (Tomáš Sedláček spoke to Vít Pohanka about the impact the crisis has already had on our use of digital technology):
Czech artists and people from the cultural sphere have been looking for ways to boost public morale in the face of the coronavirus epidemic. Those artists who saw their concerts cancelled are streaming them from their homes, actors have recorded video spots broadcast on television telling people not to lose faith, while galleries are offering viewings of their exhibitions online to the millions stuck at home for an unspecified period of time.
The 32nd Olympic Games, which had been set for Tokyo this July and August, have been put back by at least a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. What does the world’s biggest sporting postponement to date mean for the Czech Republic’s athletes? And how hard has it hit the Czech Olympic Committee’s budget? I discussed those questions and more with COC president Jiří Kejval.
In times of war, it is often said, truth is the first casualty. In the midst of the battle to contain the coronavirus, Czech authorities during a customs raid last Tuesday mistakenly seized 101,600 facemasks gifted by a branch of the Red Cross in eastern China to a Chinese community in Italy. Although Czech officials apologized for the mix-up, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Sunday published a bogus article claiming the Czech state had “stolen” that shipment – and much more.
Among the many coronavirus measures introduced by the Czech government is a “kurzarbeit”, or short-time working, programme. Under the scheme the state will make up some of the income lost by employees whose work is reduced by factory outages, helping firms avoid redundancies. The idea has received widespread backing, including from the Czech Confederation of Trade Unions, headed by Josef Středula. I discussed it – and the outlook in general – with the unions chief.
Nearly half of the Czechs who were quarantined after returning from Italy, broke the government order, data released by an independent IT initiative shows. It was collected by analysing anonymous card payment details and is just one of the ways in which big data is being used to keep better track of COVID-19 and its spread. The government has also stepped in, giving patients the option to share their movement with hygienists.
Czech schools forced to lock their doors because of the coronavirus crisis will reopen in mid-May at the very earliest, the minister of education said on Monday. Plans are in place to make sure the usual round of end-of-year exams go ahead in some form. However, the current term will not be extended into the usual holiday period.