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Industry minister Havlíček to officially take transport portfolio Friday

The Czech Republic’s minister of industry and trade, Karel Havlíček, will also be appointed minister of transport on Friday. The ANO appointee will get the post officially once the party’s leader, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, returns from an overseas trip.

In a related move, the ministries of transport and industry and trade are to be merged into one government department.

The previous ANO minister of transport, Vladimír Kremlík, was dismissed by the prime minister on Monday following criticism of the price tag attached to a sales system for new electronic motorway vignettes.

Social Democrats opposed to Havlíček getting second ministerial position

The Social Democrats, the junior partner in a government coalition with ANO, said they would prefer if the party found a new dedicated minister of transport rather than having the minister of industry trade, Karel Havlíček, hold both portfolios. The party are also against the planned merger of the ministries of transport and industry and trade.

The head of the Social Democrats deputies group, Jan Chvojka, said the party would raise the matter at a meeting of the coalition council.

The Communists, who support the minority government on key votes, are also against the changes that have followed Monday’s sacking of Vladimír Kremlík as transport minister.

Communist leader Vojtěch Filip said he believed the handing of a second ministerial position to Mr. Havlíček would be a temporary situation.

Mayor calls for new legislation after fire kills eight at psychiatric home

The mayor of a north Bohemian town where eight people died in a fire at a psychiatric home on Sunday has called for amendments to legislation to better protect patients and staff. Vejprty mayor Jitka Gavdunová told the newspaper Hospodářské noviny that clients at the Kavkaz home had attempted to set fires several times before the tragedy occurred. She said that under present regulations staff were not allowed to confiscate matches or cigarette lighters from clients and appealed to the government to introduce changes.

However the country’s ombudswoman, Anna Šabatová, said it was not possible to place restrictions on clients that were out of proportion to potential risks.

Speech defects among Czech children rise sharply

An increasing number of Czech elementary school children are suffering from speech defects, the Czech News Agency reported on Tuesday. According to Ministry of Education data, around 8,500 children were receiving speech therapy in the last academic year. This represents a four-fold increase in just 10 years.

Clinical speech therapist Jitka Kaulfuss told the Czech News Agency that the reason for the rise was a change in lifestyles. She said Czech parents were now paying less attention to their children, adding that 20 or 30 years ago most speech defects had been dealt with before children reached school age.

Czech couple to donate CZK 200 million to students

A Czech married couple have pledged to donate CZK 200 million to dozens of chemistry and science students over the next two decades. Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday about their foundation Nadace Experientia, Hana and Dalimil Dvořák said that in addition to its existing support and grants for early-stage researchers it would also now focus on high school and university students.

Daughter and second FAMU student film set for Sundance

The short film Dcera (Daughter) by Daria Kascheeva, a student at Prague’s FAMU film school, is set to compete at this year’s edition of the Sundance film festival, which gets underway on Thursday. The animated film has also been nominated for the Academy Awards and has already earned the director a Student Oscar.

Another Czech student film, SH_T HAPPENS, directed by Michaela Mihályiová and Dávid Štumpf, will also be screened at Sundance, one of the best-known independent film festivals in the world.

Weather forecast

It should be cloudy in the Czech Republic on Wednesday, with temperatures of up to 4 degrees Celsius. Daytime highs are expected to drop slightly in the following days but to remain above freezing.