The European Commission has approved a restructuring loan for state-owned Czech Airlines (ČSA) amounting to 2.5 billion crowns, or 100 million euros. The commission carried out an in-depth investigation into a restructuring plan that was presented by Czech authorities in May 2010. The plan was supposed to be partially funded by a debt-to-equity swap of a CZK 2.5 billion loan from the state-owned company Osinek. The Commission confirmed Wednesday that the restructuring plan was suitable to restore the company's viability and that the loan was valid.
An outbreak of dysentery is being reported in parts of northern Moravian cities of Ostrava and Bohumín. 31 people, among them 21 children, have fallen ill in the past month. Most of the patients come from socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Last year, Czech medical authorities recorded 44 cases of dysentery over the course of the whole year.
Police say they believe criminal negligence was behind the outbreak of methanol poisonings in the Czech Republic. At a press briefing in Prague on Tuesday Deputy Interior Minister Jaroslav Hruska said the evidence collected so far pointed to a fatal error rather than a premeditated crime. Twenty three people have been charged so far and according to the deputy interior minister investigators were getting closer to the source, but were not there yet. Police president Martin Cervicek said earlier that identifying the source and tracing the contaminated liquor could take weeks.
The death toll from contaminated bootleg liquor in the Czech Republic has reached twenty-two. An autopsy conducted on a woman who died at home has confirmed death from methanol poisoning. A 29-year-old man from south Moravia who had been in critical condition for over a week also died on Tuesday. The man reportedly ordered the lethal liquor on the Internet. Meanwhile four more people are reported to have been hospitalized in Ostrava and Karvine in Moravia after drinking spirits they had at home. More than 35 people remain in hospital in different parts of the country, though most of the cases have occurred in Moravia.
Preventive checks of spirits are taking place around with country with police officers, fire fighters and hygiene inspectors out the field daily. Fire fighters recently uncovered 260 litres of alcohol in plastic containers in which the methanol content exceeded 20-30 percent. An illegal bottling plant was uncovered in the vicinity of Cheb, west Bohemia, from which police confiscated equipment, bottles and stamps. Police are investigating how 94,000 tax stamps designated for an official liquor producer ended up in the hands of bootleggers.
The council for radio and TV broadcasting has issued a ban on advertisements for spirits while sales of hard liquor are prohibited. The regulation banning the sale of all beverages containing more than 20 percent alcohol – came into effect on Friday after bootleg liquor took its 20th victim and when it emerged that many of the victims had bought the deadly alcohol from regular stores. The bottles contained fake or stolen labels and tax stamps. It is not clear how long the ban may last for. The health minister has indicated that the government may in time moderate the ban and enable the sale of imported quality alcohol that is considered safe.
Czech spirits producers and importers are losing about 15 million crowns on net sales every day as a result of the ban. Some have restricted production and may be laying-off staff. Restaurants and bars report a steep drop in profits and a drop in regular customers. The state is also reported to be losing around 25 million in taxes each day. The estimate includes a drop in excise duty as well as value added tax.