A flu epidemic which hit all 14 regions of the Czech Republic is close to hitting its peak, according to Martin Havlíček, a flu specialist at the National Reference Laboratory. Thirteen regions (the one exception being Liberec, which saw a mild fall in cases) saw the number of cases rise by at least 80 percent. The greatest rise has been in the Zlín area. Forty-six patients are in serious condition; six people have died.
Justice Minister Helena Válková met with the president on Monday to discuss the option of resignation as well as the future direction of the Justice Ministry. Minister Válková’s position in the cabinet has become increasingly shaky in recent days; earlier, President Zeman also met with the head of ANO, Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. The justice minister is keeping quiet details of the meeting, including whether she intends to step down and - if so - when. The media has mentioned her deputy, Robert Pelikán, as a possible successor.
Czech unemployment climbed in January to 7.7 percent, up from December’s 7.5 percent, according to the Ministry of Labour and Social Services on Monday. The downturn was expected at the start of the year with the traditional fall off in jobs in the construction sector delayed by warmer than usual weather in December. Year on year, the latest jobless total of 556,191 is still an improvement on the almost 630,000 without work at the start of 2014.
Hynek Kmoníček, former ambassador and current foreign affairs advisor to President Miloš Zeman, could replace Petr Gandalovič as ambassador to the United States, financial daily Hospodářské noviny writes. According to the daily, the appointment of a leftist candidate, unlike Mr Gandalovič of the opposition Civic Democrats, is likely given the current political constellation: a centre-left government and foreign minister as well as left-of-centre president. The daily suggests the move could already have gone through, but for two US visits lined up for President Zeman in 2015. The daily reports that a changing of the guard prior would be less than strategic. Past ambassadors to the US include close aides to the late president Václav Havel: Alexandr Vondra and Michael Žantovský. The latter is the current Czech ambassador to the United Kingdom.
The country’s Supreme Court has upheld a six-year prison sentence for a motorist who caused the deaths of two pedestrians on a Prague bridge two years ago. A lower instance court found the driver, who is 67, was an epileptic who had kept quiet about his illness to be able to keep his license; he most likely suffered a seizure while behind the wheel, losing control and driving onto the sidewalk. He struck three people, two of whom were knocked from the bridge into the Vltava River below. The body of one of the victims was found in the water several weeks later.
Officers from the organized crime unit on Monday secured areas outside a police building which houses the offices of the city’s anti-corruption unit in Brno, the Czech News Agency reported. Four police cars, two vans and two unmarked cars blocked off the street in front of the building, while police, in full gear including balaclavas, formed a perimeter, surprising some passers-by. The spokesman for the anti-corruption police, Jaroslav Ibehej, later stressed that the raid had nothing to do with the police bureau on site, but was an investigation into a violent crime in the area. The spokesman declined to reveal additional details.
Two Czech right-wing extremists, 24-year-old Tomáš Kopecký and 34-year-old Michal Poláček (in 2012, allegedly members of the neo-Nazi organization Blood & Honour Division Bohemia and the militant grouping Combat 18) could face exemplary sentences for an attack on a hostel occupied by Roma residents. The two appeared in court on Monday on charges of attempted murder. Seven others are also facing charges in connection with the case, for the propagation of movements supressing individual rights and freedoms. The attack took place in Aš, northwest Bohemia, in February of 2012. The two main suspects are accused of firebombing a building occupied by mostly Roma families with children. Those inside were able to put out the fire; no one was hurt in the incident.
A major traffic accident on Sunday on the country’s D1 highway involving some 50 cars between Jihlava and Velký Beranov left 18 people injured – one of them seriously. The most badly-hurt, a woman, was transported by helicopter to a hospital in Brno. According to police, damage in the pile-up amounted to around nine million crowns. Low visibility and snow drifts are thought to have played a role in the crashes. Sunday also saw a major accident near Prague.
Veteran Czech alpine skier Ondřej Bank is said to be out of danger after a dramatic fall in the combined downhill event at the World Championships at Beaver Creek in the United States on Sunday. Bank landed badly just before the finish and suffered concussion. He was immediately taken to hospital but later released. The 34-year-old was seventh in the downhill event earlier in the week, just half a second off a gold medal. His long career has been a uphill fight against health problems and reverses.
In tennis, the Czech Republic eased into the next round of the Fed Cup with a 4:0 win against Canada. The Czechs did not drop a single set in the victory. The crucial third point was secured by Karolína Plíšková with a 6:4, 6:2 win against Gabriela Dabrowska. In the dead doubles tie, the Czechs won 6:1, 7:6. In the semi-finals, the Czechs now face France, which surprisingly turned around a two match deficit from the first day to overcome Italy 3:2.
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