The country’s Chief Hygiene Officer, Vladimír Valenta, has said that the flu epidemic that has hit the country in recent weeks is showing signs of abating. This week saw the first drop in the number of overall cases; the number of those suffering acute respiratory illness dropped by 3.4 percent and flu by 4.3 percent, he confirmed. The chief hygiene officer said on that the number of those ill in the epidemic dropped in all regions of the Czech Republic this week, among all age groups. At the same time serious cases remain: 68 out of 350 people died from complications related to the flu or respiratory illness.
President-elect Miloš Zeman is concluding a series of meetings he had this week with leaders of the parties in government and the opposition. On Friday evening he will meet with the chairman of the right-of-centre TOP 09, Karel Schwarzenberg, his rival in last month’s presidential election. Earlier Mr Zeman met with the outgoing president, Václav Klaus, the prime minister and chairman of the Civic Democrats, Petr Nečas, and the heads of the Communist Party, the Social Democrats and Public Affairs. The president-elect has so far refused to meet with members of LIDEM, a splinter group that broke away from Public Affairs, on the grounds it lacked legitimacy.
The Culture Ministry has confirmed it will provide additional funds for grant programmes. Its representatives met first with officials from the Finance Ministry to agree on details. The news was revealed by the Culture Ministry’s Jan Vondryska. The ministry took the step to try and increase grants after a scaling down was originally announced but came under fire from cultural organisations and publications.
Police in Zlín have charged eight people suspected of tax evasion amounting to at least 186 million crowns. Six of the eight, who were involved in the sale of perfume and beet root oil, were remanded in custody. The investigation took several months; on Thursday, officers searched 20 homes. If found guilty, the suspects could face between to five to ten years in prison.
On the first day of the Biathlon World Championship the hosting Czechs took the bronze in the mixed relay competition. Veronika Vítková, Gabriela Soukalová, Jaroslav Soukup and Ondřej Moravec made it into the top three on Thursday evening, behind Norway and France. Soukup had to replace Michal Šlesingr in the line-up at the last minute, since Šlesingr is down with the flu. It is still uncertain if he will take part in the 10 km sprint on Saturday in the Moravian town of Nové Město.
Star football goalie Petr Čech will take to the field with his Chelsea teammates against Wigan on Saturday the team’s coach, Rafael Benitez, confirmed. Originally, the goalkeeper had expressed worries he might be out for several weeks after breaking his little finger last weekend. Čech broke his ‘pinky’ against Newcastle and missed the Czech national squad’s 2:0 win against Turkey this week.
Speaking before the beginning of the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas said that the current proposal for the EU budget for 2014-2020 is unacceptable for the Czech Republic and he is prepared to veto it. The premier said he wants the budget to be slimmer on the one hand, and to be fair to the Czech Republic on the other. The beginning of the meeting over the budget was moved to a later time on Thursday evening, in order to give EU leaders a chance to hold bilateral meetings beforehand.
The Czech power utility ČEZ is launching international arbitration proceedings against Albania for failing to protect its investment in the country’s energy sector. The company is filing for damages to the tune of 5 billion crowns. ČEZ’s license to operate Albania’s national grid was revoked in January over a long-running dispute with the Albanian energy regulator over tariffs and unpaid bills. Company officials say that decisions made by the Albanian authorities are incompatible with European business standards as well as being in violation of Albanian law.
Chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies, Civic Democrat Miroslava Němcová, has criticized her own party for giving former “rebel” MPs Marek Šnajdr and Ivan Fuksa as well as former defense minister Alexander Vondra lucrative positions in state-owned companies. In an interview on Thursday with the radio station Impuls, Ms Němcová said that these were compromises that crossed the line. Mr Šnajdr and Mr Fuksa were among the Civic Democrat MPs who attempted to block government proposed tax hikes late last year. They eventually quit their lower house seats to allow the package to pass.
The Public Affairs party allegedly had a secret bank account from which it paid out over 41 million crowns, according to a report aired on commercial TV Nova. Journalists were given documents by an unidentified source that showed payments made by the party in 2010 and 2011. Several people, including a member of the party, confirmed the document’s validity. A number of current and former party members further admitted to receiving some payments in cash in those years. Party chairman Radek John has denied any knowledge of a hidden account and the party’s de-facto leader Vít Bárta said the report was an attempt to tarnish his reputation.