A second test has confirmed a case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in the Czech Republic. The first test, carried out earlier this week, indicated the presence of BSE in a six-year-old cow at a farm in Northern Moravia, and on Wednesday the Agriculture Ministry sent the sample to Germany for further testing. Agriculture Ministry spokesman Hugo Roldan confirmed to Radio Prague earlier today that the second test has proven positive, but officials are waiting for a third round of tests to be sure:
"Unfortunately this test has proved positive. We still do not consider this to be a definitive result and we are sending the sample to a specialise laboratory in Tubingen in Germany. We will wait a few days in order to get a definitive confirmation of our results."
Agriculture Minister Jan Fencl says that no further measures will be taken until the results of the third test are known, which will be around the middle of next week.
Immediately after the announcement, Slovakia and Poland said they would halt all imports of Czech beef to their countries. Poland's ban on Czech beef is effective as of midnight on Friday, while Slovakia will halt imports as of midnight on Sunday. Hungary has announced that it will restrict imports to beef that has been tested for BSE. Meanwhile, EU officials have expressed their regret over the confirmation of the test results, but say that this will not have any impact on EU policy towards the Czech Republic.
Officials in EU candidate countries have voiced their dismay as Irish voters look likely to reject EU enlargement in a national referendum. Preliminary results from the Irish referendum show that the majority of Irish citizens are set to vote against the Nice treaty, which paved the way for expansion eastwards. According to Petr Kubernat, the director of the Czech Foreign Ministry's European Integration Department, if the treaty is not approved, then this would be a bad signal for the Czech Republic and the other candidate countries.
Four Northern Ireland football players and their goalkeeping coach left the Czech Republic on Friday, after being detained in Prague over an incident in a local night club. The men were arrested and held in custody following an incident in a strip club just off Prague's Wenceslas Square. The club's bouncer was slightly injured during an argument over the bill. Four of the men have been charged with hooliganism and the case has now been handed over to detectives, who will decide whether to proceed or drop the charges. If convicted of hooliganism, the men could face up to one year in prison.
The district court in the Northern Moravian city of Olomouc has confirmed a prison sentence of one year on a neo-Nazi skinhead charged with racially motivated crimes. Jiri Tuma was originally found guilty of physical assault in his home town of Jesenik, hooliganism and spreading racism. He appealed the sentence, but it was upheld by the district court on Friday. This verdict is final and cannot be appealed.
And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast. Saturday should see cloudy to overcast skies and scattered showers in places. Daytime highs should reach 20 degrees Celsius. Night-time lows on Friday could drop to 8 degrees Celsius.
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