An epidemic of flu that has hit the Czech Republic in recent weeks is in decline, the country’s chief hygiene officer, Vladimír Valenta, said on Friday. The number of cases of acute respiratory infections has registered an 11.6 percent decrease this week, while the number of flu cases dropped by over 22 percent. Mr Valenta however warned the flu epidemic was not over yet as more flu-related deaths are being registered across the country. In total, 85 people have died of flu-related causes this season.
Czech President Václav Klaus on Friday signed into law a bill on medical marihuana which will be made available to patients later this year. The legislation allows patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, atopic dermatitis and other disease to obtain marihuana on electronic prescription which will be under tightened supervision. One gram of the drug should be available in pharmacies at a price ranging between 80 and 200 crowns, or 4 and 10 US dollars. Medical marihuana will be imported; next year, the authorities are planning to issue licences to Czech companies to grow cannabis plants as well.
Doctors’ unions have called on hospital physicians to join a protest against the government’s health-care reform which is to be held on March 1, the unions’ chair Martin Engel said on Friday. The unions asked doctors to take care of their own health on that day, and to inform patients of the risks related to the reform. Only emergency cases should be treated during the protest. The Czech government has implemented a broad reform of the health care system including changes to the structure of hospitals and cuts to their budgets. Doctors also complain the Health Ministry has failed to raise their salaries as promised two years ago.
Czech news agency ČTK’s photographer Roman Vondrouš has won the category of Sports actions – stories of the international World Press Photo contest. Mr Vondrouš won with a series of photos from the Velká Parubická steeplechase; the black-and-white shots depict the background of the famous cross-country run. Mr Vondrouš said the award was his greatest achievement so far.
Another 6,000 Danish students are expected to visit Prague next week, the news agency ČTK reported quoting sources from the Danish embassy. The Czech capital has become a popular destination for young Danes; this week, an estimated 10,000 of them arrived in Prague for two- or three-day stays. Their visits coincide with the winter school holidays in their country. Danish students come on cheap package tours, and have caused number of incidents mainly fuelled by alcohol. Prague police register around 10 such incidents each day; on Wednesday, a group of Danish students demolished several hotel rooms in the capital.
The lower house of Parliament on Friday backed a constitutional amendment that would strip MPs convicted to serve prison terms of their mandate. The convicted deputies would also lose their salaries and other benefits. The draft legislation was admitted for further debate in the house; if eventually approved by MPs and Senators, it should come into force during the next parliament. The amendment, tabled by the lower house speaker Miroslava Němcová of the Civic Demoracts, comes in reaction to the case of her former party colleague, MP Roman Pekárek, who is to serve five years in prison for corruption but has refused to give up his mandate. Another MP, former Social Democrat David Rath, has been held in custody since last May also on corruption charges.
The Czech Republic’s oldest inhabitant, Evangelia Čarosová, celebrates her 109th birthday on Friday. Ms Čarosová, who lives in a village outside the north-eastern town of Bruntál, was born in Greece and moved to Czechoslovakia to escape the civil war that broke out in the 1940s. The illiterate woman, who has lived in her village since 1950, reportedly understands Czech but only speaks Greek.
Czech Minister of Culture Alena Hanáková, of the TOP 09 party, is set to remain in office. Speculations of her demise emerged after TOP 09 leader Karel Schwarzenberg reportedly offered the job to a former rector of Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts earlier this week. However, Mr Schwarzenberg met with Minister Hanáková on Friday and said he had no objections to her remaining in the post.
In related news, some 32 percent of Czechs are happy with their health care, according to a new survey by the CVVM institute released on Friday. Another 33 percent of those polled said they were dissatisfied with the health care system. Most people – around 80 percent – consider financing of public health care the biggest problem while 67 percent said they did not approve of the functioning of health insurance companies. Some two thirds of people who took part in the survey also saw problems in the management of drugs.
Viktoria Plzeň pulled off a huge upset on Thursday night when they beat the Italian side Napoli 3:0 away in the first leg of their Europa League first knockout stage tie. Plzeň’s goals came from Vladimír Darida, František Rajtoral and Stanislav Tecl. Sparta Prague, meanwhile, lost 1:0 in the Czech capital to Chelsea, who took all three points thanks to a late strike from the Brazilian Oscar.
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