Up to 95 percent of pharmacies in the Czech Republic closed their doors for three hours on Monday to protest changes to the pricing system on medicines introduced by Health Minister David Rath. Until now, pharmacists have warned that under the plan, which cuts pharmacists' margin of profit, a quarter of the country's chemists could go out of business. There are a total of 2,200 pharmacies in the country. Despite closing their doors on Monday, pharmacists remained on hand for acutely-ill patients. During the shut-down representatives put forward a petition at the office of the government: 1,500 signatures protesting Mr Rath's policies, asking for the prime minister's involvement.
The Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan has ordered fire brigades to beginning gauging the structural safety of major buildings and shopping centres in the Czech Republic, following the tragedy in Katowice, Poland, at the weekend. In Katowice, the collapse of an exhibition hall killed 67 people, including two Czech nationals. In the Czech Republic, the monitoring will take up to one month. Like Poland, the Czech Republic has been hit by heavy snow in recent weeks, adding significant "stress" to flat-roof structures. One supermarket in the Czech Republic recently caved-in, but no one was seriously hurt.
In related news, the Czech Republic has offered to send more than 700 litres of blood plasma to Poland to help those injured in the tragedy. The Foreign Ministry has made a helicopter available to deliver the material.
The Czech Ministry for Trade & Industry has been taking steps to try and help LG Philips Displays, a plant in the region of eastern Moravia manufacturing TV screens, which shut down on Friday amidst financial difficulty. Until now, the plant has employed 1,300 people. Specialists say its permanent shutting down would have a devastating impact on the region. For now, operation is set to resume on Tuesday, with two out of three production lines running. For the long term: the Ministry for Trade & Industry is trying to work out a plan to save the factory, with options including securing an export loan from the Czech Export bank.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme State Attorney, Renata Vesecka, has said the state attorney will apply for information on the recent shelving of the case by police, of a suspicious flat purchase by the former prime minister, Stanislav Gross. Unclear circumstances surrounding the flat's financing, along with murky business deals by Mr Gross' wife, sparked a government crisis that led to the prime minister stepping down in April of last year. The Supreme State Attorney's Office will ask for information from the Prague Municipal State Attorney's Office, which supervised Gross's case. Then it will decide whether to re-check the decision process. The Supreme State Attorney's Office normally reviews all serious cases in which investigations have been shelved. In the event of uncertainty, the Supreme State Attorney can order a case re-opened.
Former football international and coach turned head organiser of Germany's football World Cup, Franz Beckenbauer, is in Prague on a two-day visit to promote soccer's biggest event. On Monday afternoon Mr Beckenbauer met with both Czech football officials as well as with Czech president Vaclav Klaus. On Tuesday Mr Beckenbauer will meet with the Czech prime minister. The World Cup will kick off in neighbouring Germany in June. The last time Czechs competed in the event was sixteen years ago, in Italy in 1990.
Mostly cloudy weather is expected on Tuesday with daytime temperatures reaching only - 3 degrees Celsius.
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