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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
There is mounting speculation regarding the possible dismissal of Culture Minister Alena Hanáková who has come under fire for incompetence. The ruling TOP 09 party which appointed her to the post on Thursday met to discuss the situation. The party has come under pressure from its coalition partners who clearly consider Ms. Hanáková a weak link in the cabinet. The culture minister says no one has approached her on the matter but according to well-informed sources cited by Czech Television her party has already approached the head of the Prague Music Academy Ivo Mathe with an offer for him to take over the ministry of culture.
Czech artists are staging a protest outside the culture ministry over dwindling subsidies for live art. The ministry slashed this year’s budget for live art by 100 million crowns to 280 million, sparking protests both from artists and the art committees which hand out grants. Critics say that the ministry’s policy is devastating this field of culture. Subsidies for it have dropped by 57 percent since 2007. Culture Minister Alena Hanáková has promised to try to find additional funds, but points out that the ministry is restricted by a significantly lower budget due to the government’s fiscal consolidation drive.
The Czech and German interior ministers met in Prague on Thursday to discuss means of curbing drug-smuggling across the common border. Bavaria and Saxony report a steep rise in drug trafficking from the neighbouring Czech Republic. The authorities say the problem concerns mainly the home-made drug pervitin, known in Germany as Crystal, and cheap marihuana, smuggled across the border both by Czechs and German tourists. There have even been cases of German dealers paying Czechs to come and make the drug pervitin in Germany. The two sides have agreed to intensify cooperation between customs officials, police and the judiciary.