A woman was admitted to a Prague hospital with methanol poisoning on Friday, a spokesman for the facility said, the second such case registered in the Czech Republic this week. Some 40 people have died in the country since the outbreak of the methanol crisis last September. The police have meanwhile charged another five people for selling bootleg liquor on the black market. The country’s chief hygiene officer has again warned against drinking alcohol from unknown sources.
In a breakthrough ruling, a court in Prague has ordered an insurance firm to pay clients the full price of a package tour cancelled because the travel agency had gone bankrupt, the daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported on Friday. Despite the fact the agency had been insured, the Generali insurance firm only paid the clients 58 percent of the price, arguing the travel agency had been “under-insured”. But the court ruled the clients were entitled to full reimbursement. A spokeswoman for the insurance company said the firm was going to appeal the verdict.
The Czech Ministry of Transport on Friday asked drivers to keep winter tyres on their vehicles. Czech drivers are legally obliged to use winter tires until the end of March but the ministry said they should wait before replacing them with summer tyres as a spell of cold weather is expected in April.
28-year-old student Milan Bruncvík is set to become the first Czech to take part in the annual Oxford – Cambridge university boat race in the UK on Sunday, the news agency ČTK reported. Mr Bruncvík, who studies engineering at Cambridge University, is a former European rowing champion and competed at two Olympic Games. The oarsman said he was looking forward to the race which for him was a dream come true.
Top Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych will miss the Davis Cup quarterfinals against Kazachstan next weekend. The 28-year-old player, ranked sixth in the world, said he could not play due to a shoulder injury he suffered during his US tour. The defending champions Czech Republic will rely on Radek Štepánek, who returns after a two-month break caused by neck surgery, along with Lukáš Rosol, Jan Hájek and Ivo Minář.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has openly acknowledged that the government’s S-card project, an electronic system for social and welfare benefit payments, was fraught with problems and should be scrapped. At a joint press conference with Labour and Social Affairs Minister Ludmila Mullerová, the prime minister said his proposal would be put to the cabinet at the earliest possible date. The S-card system has come under fire from the opposition, trade unions, recipients of welfare and even the Ombudsman for burdening those whom it is meant to serve and for leaving their personal data open to possible abuse. The system was criticized as being unethical and possibly even in violation of the Constitution. Some recipients of welfare benefits had threatened to take it to court despite the fact that the government backtracked and made significant concessions.
The prime minister’s decision on the S-card project has raised the ire of the coalition party TOP 09 which holds the social affairs portfolio. Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek lashed back at the prime minister on Thursday saying the S-card project was viable and deserved support but had failed to get it because the prime minister feared for his political future since his own party had written him off. Prime Minister Necas said he would not respond to stupid, impertinent remarks, but Civic Democrat deputy chairman Jiri Pospisil reacted in anger telling Mr. Kalousek not to pass judgement on Civic Democratic Party affairs.
An audit by the European Commission has arrived at the conclusion that the Czech Finance Ministry is partly to blame for malpractices in the process of drawing of EU funds in the Ustecky and Karlovy Vary regions, Czech Radio said on Thursday. Shirin Wheeler, a spokeswoman for the EU commissioner for regional policy, said the EC audit has confirmed both shortcomings in public tenders and insufficient control by the Finance Ministry. The Finance Ministry last week suspended the payment of European subsidies to the respective regions and expects them to cover the loss from their own budgets.
President Miloš Zeman would like to see the former first lady Livia Klausová become the country’s ambassador to Slovakia, according to Czech public television. Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said he was informed about the idea and found it totally unacceptable on the grounds that the former first lady has no experience in the field of diplomacy. He said that in his view the post should go to a career diplomat.
The government is considering introducing substitution therapy for crystal methamphetamine addicts. The head of the national anti-drug coordination centre Jindrich Voboril said at a press briefing on Thursday that tackling the problem of home-made crystal methamphetamine known as pervitin was a big priority in the fight against drugs. There are an estimated 40,000 pervitin users in the Czech Republic and vast quantities of the drug are also being smuggled to neighbouring Germany. Unlike heroin, substitution therapy for pervitin is not available.