The physical work of renaming the international airport in Prague after the late president Havel began on Monday. Large panels bearing the new name Václav Havel Airport Prague (Letiště Václava Havla Praha in Czech) were being mounted in the three main terminals and on the arrivals runway. The official name change and accompanying ceremony is planned for October 5, which would be Mr Havel’s 76 birthday. The idea to rename the airport after the last Czechoslovak and first Czech president’s was launched in the days following his death last December, and was petitioned by tens of thousands of people.
The heads of the Prague transit authority are to meet on Monday to discuss the selection of the new director. The former head of the Public Transport Company (DPP), Vladimír Lich, was unexpectedly sacked in mid-August and was replaced by interim director Magdalena Češková. Neither Lich nor Češková are expected to be reappointed. DPP is the largest company controlled by Prague City Hall. The selection committee for the new chief will be made up of city hall and company representatives.
A Prague hospital has admitted a second person for methanol poisoning on Sunday. The fifty-eight year old man is conscious and admitted to drinking whiskey or cognac with a man who was hospitalized on Friday evening. More than 30 people have been hospitalised and are being treated in different parts of the country, but most victims are from Moravia. A sixty-three year-old man died on Sunday in the town of Přerov in the Olomouc region. The man was believed to have died from methanol poisoning, which would have brought the death rate up to 20, but later hospital staff announced the cause of death was excessive amounts of ethanol.
The Czech police have brought charges against 23 people in connection to the methanol poisoning around the country, which has claimed the lives of 19 people so far. Four people were charged on Sunday. Members of the emergency task force announced on Saturday that excessive amounts of methyl alcohol were found in 36 samples of hard liquor. Some had more than 26 times the legal amount. More than 30,000 inspections in bars, restaurants and street stalls were carried out by the police since Friday evening, when a ban on the sale of all liquor with more than 20 percent alcohol content was announced. The police is focusing not only on the producers and distributors of the laced alcohol, but now also on the suppliers of the raw methanol. There may actually be a single source of the methanol used in the bootleg liquor, according to the police. Police president Martin Červíček said on Saturday that the investigation has made significant progress especially in the Zlín, Olomouc and Silesian regions. Yet, Mr Červíček underscored that the laced alcohol is not coming from a single source, and that the investigation is still in progress.
The Czech Health Minister Leoš Heger said on a Czech Television talk show on Sunday that he will try to adjust the ban on hard liquor as quickly as possible, but that right now the blanket ban that was insituted on Friday night is a necessity. As soon as the police find all the sources of the alcohol with poisonous levels of methanol, and the number of vicitims begins to decrease, Minister Heger said he can imagine restricting the ban to certain localities or products. He hopes that ban will be lifted in less than a month, but did not rule the possibility that it may take longer.
Around 250 people attended a nationalist anti-Roma rally in the northern Bohemian town of Varnsdorf on Saturday. The far-right Workers’ Party of Social Justice (DSSS) organised the rally as part of its election campaign. The rally passed near apartment blocks with mostly Romani residents that were at the center of clashes last year. Rally participants chanted nationalist and racist slogans, but no open confrontations between the Romani inhabitants and the demonstrators were reported by the police. In 2011, Varnsdorf and other towns in the area saw anti-Roma protests over a number of weeks, some with up to 2,000 participants.
Culture Minister Alena Hanáková said on Czech Television on Sunday that she will limiting the scope of authority of her financial deputy Martin Sankot, but will not remove him from his post. After unexpectedly sacking the director of the Czech National Theatre Ondřej Černý, Ms Hanáková replaced him with Mr Sankot last week. But following intense criticism from the theatre staff, she named the technical director of the Naitonal Theatre Václav Pelouch as the interim chief on Friday. Ms Hanáková said she will meet with representatives of the theatre in the upcoming days to discuss the selection process for the new director.
Lucie Hradecká will play in the final of the WTA Bell Challenge Tournament in Quebec City against Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens, after beating France’s Kristina Mladenovic on Saturday evening. And the Czech team is one victory away from entering the Davis cup finals, after the Czech men’s duo Tomáš Berdych and Radek Štěpánek beat the Argentinean Carlos Berlocq and Eduardo Schwank on Saturday in Buenos Aires. Carlos Berlocq will replace his teammate Juan Martin del Potro, who pulled out due to injury, in the reverse singles on Sunday. Tomáš Berdych is expected to have an easy win against the less experienced Berlocq, which will secure a place for the Czechs team in the Davis Cup finals in November.
The police have now arrested 19 people in connection with methyl alcohol
poisonings around the country. The arrests came in three regions:
Moravia-Silesia, Zlín, and
Olomouc. The latest two suspects were arrested in Zlín on Saturday
morning. Two others from the Zlín region have already been charged for
breaking the law on product labeling. As of Saturday afternoon, charges
have been brought against 13 people in connection to the case. A number of
others have been arrested and are being questioned by the police. Arrests
were made in different parts of the country, and most of the accused do
seem to be a part of a single case.
In recent days the consumption of laced bootleg liquor across the country claimed the lives of 19 people. Seven more people were hospitalized with methanol poisoning since Friday afternoon.
Large supermarket chains around the Czech Republic have announced that they have taken all hard alcohol products off their shelves overnight, following a ban that was issued late Friday evening. Chains such as Tesco, Billa and Kaufland said they had employees working night shifts on Friday night in order to comply with the government ban. The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority has announced that liquor stronger than 20 percent does not have to be taken off the shelves, but must be covered from view, and blocked in the cashier systems by all retailers. The police carried out inspections in supermarkets and shops throughout the night. Alcohol producers, restaurants and storeowners have criticized the ban, saying it will only promote illegal sales of alcohol. The ban was issued by the government indefinitely, until the case of bootleg liquor which has caused fatal methanol poisoning is resolved. So far, approximately 19 people were arrested in connection with the case, but a single source of poisoned alcohol has not been determined yet.