The Czech health authorities have ruled out 40 suspected cases of swine flu, twelve more people are being tested. The country has no confirmed case as yet. Chief hygiene officer Michael Vít said on Monday that further preventative measures were unnecessary at this point, but he urged people to cancel all non-essential trips to high-risk destinations. Another 100 or so tourists are still in Mexico and Mr. Vít said doctors would be on standby for their arrival. Six of those who arrived on Sunday remain in isolation.
The outgoing centre-right government has approved a wage increase of 3.5 percent for employees in the public sector due to take effect as of June 1st. The wage hike will apply to some 500,000 people. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas said the wage hike would not burden the budget excessively since it was a "relatively mild indexation." He said the move was an effort to make up for the decline in real gross pay in the public sector last year.
Talks on the composition of Jan Fischer’s caretaker cabinet are back on
track, with political leaders saying the prime minister designate has their
Representatives of the Civic Democrats, Social Democrats and the Greens
have put forward fresh candidates for the ministerial posts that remain to
be filled. There is general agreement that the new cabinet line up should
be ready by May 8, when president Klaus is expected to appoint the new
Mr. Fischer said the main goal of his administration would be to successfully finish the country’s EU presidency and to draft the 2010 state budget, keeping the budget deficit below 150 billion crowns. He said he would require restraint in all budget chapters and seek a reasonable compromise between the proposals of the current governing coalition and the opposition. The National Economic Council, set up as an advisory body to the Topolánek cabinet, will continue to work for the new prime minister.
Czech Republic handed Slovakia their worst-ever defeat at the world ice hockey championship on Saturday by trouncing their neighbours 8-0. Jakub Klepis and Karel Rachunek had three assists while Jaromír Jagr scored twice in the most one-sided meeting in the history of Czech Republic-Slovakia matches. The team scored four goals in each of the first two periods before easing off in the third. The win took them into third place in Group F, ahead of Belarus on goal difference.
The Czech health authorities have so far ruled out 14 cases of suspected swine flu, thirty-eight more people are currently being tested. Among them are seven of 200 Czech tourists who returned home from Mexico on Sunday morning. Prague’s Ruzyně Airport had doctors on standby and people returning from Mexico underwent thermal screening on arrival. One person suffering from a high fever was taken to Bulovka hospital, six others are in home isolation. Czech doctors currently have two million anti-viral drugs at their disposal, enough to treat a fifth of the population.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek has urged senators to ratify the Lisbon reform treaty in a vote due on May 6th. Speaking in a TV debate, Mr. Topolánek said a failure to ratify the treaty could cause a major rift within the EU and serve as an excuse for some countries to halt further EU enlargement. He said the Czechs would find themselves side-lined and would find it hard to recover their lost credit. In his strongest endorsement of the treaty to date, the outgoing prime minister said that although he himself had some reservations about the treaty, it was vital to ratify it if the Czech Republic wanted to be a member of the European community. He called on senators who were reluctant to support the treaty to leave the assembly hall ahead of the vote. The treaty was approved by the lower house of Parliament in February.
An effort to curb the amount of flu medication sold over the counter had
to be abandoned on Sunday after a new computer system collapsed in trial
operation. According to an amendment to the law which took effect on May
1st, flu medicine containing pseudoefedrine such as Coldrex or Stopgrip,
should only be sold to people in small amounts on the basis of a health
insurance card and ID. The move is an attempt to curb abuse of the
substance in the production of the illegal street drug pervitin. However
the system collapsed within hours of being launched and in the face of
growing complaints from the public pharmacies are once again selling flu
medication without restriction.
Aside from the technical problems, the new law is controversial. It involves putting personal data into a central evidence system and some pharmacies have refused to use it for fear of violating the privacy law. The matter is being investigated by the Office for Protection of Private Data.
Members of the Roma minority held peaceful demonstrations around the country on Sunday in protest against growing extremism in the Czech Republic. In the town of Chomutov the protest ended prematurely after it was attacked by right-wing extremists. The mass protests were sparked by a recent arson attack on a Romany family which left a two-year-old girl fighting for her life. The organizers of the first-ever nation-wide Romany protest say Sunday’s gathering was contrived as a peaceful event but they will not hesitate to fight back if their lives are threatened by neo-Nazis. Romany vigilante groups are now operating in some parts of the country.
The interim prime minister Jan Fisher has been meeting with political leaders to try to reach agreement on the composition of his caretaker cabinet. The process of establishing an interim administration was derailed on Friday when the prime minister designate unexpectedly broke with an earlier political agreement and put forward his own candidates for three important ministerial posts. Leaders of the Civic Democrats, Social Democrats and the Greens have said they would not back such a cabinet and will now put forward other names for Mr. Fischer to consider. The Fisher cabinet was expected to take over on May 8th and lead the country to early elections in October. It is not clear if this unexpected hurdle will delay its appointment.
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