The death toll from methyl alcohol poisoning related to bootleg production has reached sixteen, the Czech news agency and other sources reported. Others remain in hospital in serious condition. Earlier on Wednesday the government set up an emergency task force to respond to the alarming number of cases of methyl alcohol poisoning. The task force, which includes representatives from a number of ministries including health, interior and industry and trade, as well as the police president and customs officials, has already met over the worsening situation, recommending that the sale of spirits be banned at market stalls and food stands.
Police president Martin Červíček has put together a special police team which will investigate methanol poisoning cases which rose dramatically in the Czech Republic over the past days. The wave of methyl alcohol poisoning has already claimed 16 lives and more at least 14 others remain in serious condition. Most of the fatalities have occurred in Silesia and Moravia. The spokeswoman for the police presidium Štěpánka Zatloukalová said the aim was to better coordinate police efforts and results of expert findings, as well as the investigation to find who was responsible for the production and distribution of the bootleg alcohol.
In related news, emergency inspections of 410 restaurants and drinking establishments in nine of the country’s 14 regions throughout Monday and Tuesday, uncovered flaws in 75 cases – the majority related to missing acquisition records. Establishments will have to provide the missing documentation within three days, Health Minister Leoš Heger said on Wednesday. Two cases are being investigated by the police, six cases are being handled by customs officials. In several cases, establishment owners were ordered, in the presence of a hygiene officer, to destroy liquor on site.
Czech President Václav Klaus has signed into law legislation slowing the growth of old age pensions over the next three years, the president’s spokesman Radim Ochvat revealed. By doing so, the president declined calls by the opposition Social Democrats and the country’s Senior Citizens Council to reject the bill. Last week, the Chamber of Deputies passed the bill again, overriding a veto by the Left wing-dominated Senate. Under the amendment, pensions will be indexed over a period of three years starting in 2013 with one third of the growth in prices and one third of the rise in real wages. The amendment is part of the government’s austerity measures aimed at decreasing the deficit.
The opposition party Public Affairs has charged that the government’s budget proposal for 2013 overestimates expected revenues while doing little to support entrepreneurship and lowering spending. The party was a former coalition member before it splintered into Public Affairs and LIDEM. According to party leader Radek John, the proposed budget will hurt growth and drive the country deeper into recession.
Two Czech nationals arrested on spying charges on the island of Limnos in Greece could potentially face up to 20 years in prison – if their case were to go to trial and the two were found guilty. The head of the Czech consulate in Athens Blanka Kovacsová outlined the situation on Wednesday in an interview for the Czech news agency. The state prosecutor overseeing the case has not yet decided whether the two men, aged 28 and 33, will be remanded in custody or be allowed to post bail. The duo’s public defender has requested an expanded investigation that would see witnesses be called to give depositions. The two Czechs have said in their defence that they were only researching material for a computer game; they were caught recording footage of a Greek military base as well as a local airport.
Legendary Czech actor Radoslav Brzobohatý has died at the age of 79. The actor, who starred in Czech New Wave films like Všichni Dobří rodáci (All My Compatriots) by Vojtěch Jasný and Ucho (The Ear) by Karel Kachyna, passed away just one day before he would have turned 80, his wife Hana Gregorová said. Earlier this year, Radoslav Brzobohatý was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the TýTý awards.
The Czech national football team received poor marks from viewers and sportswriters for a lacklustre performance against Finland, a friendly the squad lost 1:0. After a dismal first half, in which the Czech squad conceded the game’s lone goal, players raised their level of play, creating several opportunities but were unable to equalise.