Czech authorities have established contact with all Czechs who were travelling in Nepal at the time of the earthquake, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said on Wednesday, adding that all of them were safe. Some 54 Czechs, along with another 48 EU citizens, will be evacuated on the plane which is bringing rescue team and material aid from Prague to Nepal. The plane left the Czech Republic in the early hours of Wednesday. Dozens of Czechs have already managed to leave the Himalayan state. According to the latest information, Saturday’s devastating earthquake claimed more than 5,000 lives.
Czechs have raised nearly 16 million crowns (approximately 583,000 euros) in public collections called by humanitarian organisations to help earthquake-stricken Nepal. The NGO People in Need has so far collected nine million crowns. It released one million for immediate relief and has a four-member team working in the affected area. The Czech government on Monday earmarked twenty million crowns in emergency aid to cover the cost of the Czech trauma team, and also pledged to send humanitarian aid.
A Czech plane carrying a trauma team and ten tonnes of material aid to Nepal, which left Prague for Kathmandu in the early hours of Wednesday, was diverted to Delhi. According to Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, the overloaded airport in Kathmandu will be ready to take the flight at around midnight on Wednesday. The team, which includes nine doctors, 10 nurses and 14 fire officers, is expected to spend two weeks in Nepal, which was struck by a devastating earthquake on Saturday. Czech citizens who were in the country when the disaster struck are due to fly back to Prague on the return flight.
The Czech Republic’s chief hygiene officer on Wednesday cancelled screenings for Ebola at the country’s five international airports. The checks were introduced in October 2014 after the outbreak of the deadly disease in Africa earlier that year. All passengers arriving at airports in Prague, Brno, Pardubice, Ostrava and Karlovy Vary were required to undergo the screening, ranging from filling in a form to undergoing a medical check-up at the airport. The Czech authorities registered several cases of suspected Ebola but all of them eventually tested negative for the disease.
Finance Minister Andrej Babiš says the gap in public spending should not exceed 70 billion crowns in 2016. He made the announcement on Wednesday in the lower house of the Czech Parliament. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said this was unacceptable for the ruling Social Democrats, adding that the finance minister had failed to discuss the proposal prior to presenting it in the lower house. The prime minister pointed out that the government had a commitment to increase defence spending and noted that a 70 billion crown deficit would mean freezing the salaries of public employees.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament on Wednesday passed an amendment that prevents new clients from entering the second pillar of the pension scheme introduced by the former centre-right cabinet of prime minister Petr Nečas. It is the first step in the process of scrapping the second pillar, which enabled people to put part of their pension funds into private insurance companies. According to critics it is disadvantageous for the vast majority of people and there was very little interest in it. Minister Sobotka on Wednesday supported the third pillar which represents voluntary savings, in accounts that can be set up and closed at will.
The European Commission has approved the first Czech operational programme aimed at drawing EU funds which covers entrepreneurship and innovation for competitiveness. Approval of the operational programme will make the Czech Republic eligible for eight billion euros (approximately 216 billion crowns) in EU funds. Altogether 4.4 billion euros will be provided from the European Fund for Regional Development. Reacting to the announcement, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said it was exceptionally good news for Czech businessmen, firms, academics and universities. According to several European Commission sources, the next operational programmes could be approved by mid-May.
Czech car-maker Škoda auto raised its operating profit by more than 30 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2015, to 242 million euros (approximately 6.6 billion crowns), according to information released by the owner of Škoda, German concern Volkswagen, on Wednesday. The sales of the Czech Republic’s biggest car maker grew by six percent in the same period to 3.2 billion euros. According to the report, Škoda Auto sold 217,000 cars in 2014, which is 1.3 percent more than in the previous year. Last year, the sale of the company’s cars rose by 12.7 percent and for the first time exceeded the one million mark.
A swimming pool worker has died after inhaling chlorine at a pool in Nýřany, West Bohemia. The mayor of the town, Jiří Davídek, told the news website iDnes.cz that the man, who was 50, had done so deliberately in what was an unusual method of suicide. Two other members of staff at the pool have been hospitalised after also inhaling chlorine when trying to help the man during Wednesday morning’s incident.
The world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, is set to take part in the Golden Spike athletics meeting in Ostrava in May, the event’s organisers announced on Wednesday. It will be the seventh appearance at the country’s biggest athletics meeting for the Jamaican sprinter and a third appearance in the 200m race. Bolt will be attacking his own record of 19.83 seconds, which he set at the Golden Spike in 2008.
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