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Three Czechs trapped in Wuhan due to coronavirus

Three Czechs are trapped in the Chinese city of Wuhan which is on lockdown due to the spread of the new coronavirus. Two are students and one is a permanent resident in the city of 11 million inhabitants. All are reported to be safe.

The Czech Foreign Ministry has said it is in contact with all three of them and has entered into negotiations with the local authorities to try and get them moved to another location.

Meanwhile, the Czech Foreign Ministry has warned Czechs travelling to China to exercise increased caution; avoid crowded places, food markets and take the recommended health precautions seriously.

The Czech authorities have said they are ready to effect screening measures at Prague’s international airport should the need arise.

Trade and industry minister takes over transport ministry portfolio

Trade and Industry Minister Karel Havlíček took over the transport ministry portfolio on Friday morning, following the dismissal of Vladimir Kremlík from the post earlier this week.

Minister Havlíček will remain in charge of the Transport Ministry for the remainder of the government’s term in office at the prime minister’s request.

He said on Friday he would be making personnel changes at the ministry and open competitions would be held for all managerial posts. Previous considerations regarding a possible merger of the ministries will not be brought about.

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš dismissed Transport Minister Vladimír Kremlík over an overpriced tender to operate a new online system of motorway vignette sales. The 400-million crown deal has been scrapped.

IT specialists organize hackathon to produce online sales system for electronic vignettes

IT specialists from around the country will be taking part in a hackathon to produce an online sales system for electronic vignettes over the weekend, following the scrapping of an overpriced deal negotiated by the former transport minister.

Hundreds of IT specialists are said to have volunteered to take part in the endeavour to produce a functional online sales system which they will offer the government free of charge.

The hackathon is due to start at 6pm on Friday and according to its organizer ,IT specialist and entrepreneur Tomáš Vondráček, they should produce and online system by Monday morning.

The government's IT commissioner Vladimír Dzurilla has said the government appreciates the assistance and will put it to the best possible use.

Central Bank may be given right to dictate mortgage loan conditions

The Czech National Bank may get extended powers in being able to dictate conditions for mortgage loans to banks, according to an amendment to the law approved in its first reading by the lower house on Friday.

At present the central bank only has the right to issue recommendations which are not binding, although they are generally adhered to. According to the bill’s proponents it is to lower the risk of potential losses and protect the resilience of the financial sector.

The proposed amendment was vehemently opposed by the Civic Democrats, the Pirate Party a TOP 09, who argued that it could make housing less accessible to young people.

It is now being reviewed by the Budget Committee in the Chamber of Deputies.

Skoda production in Czech plants up by 2.2 percent year-on-year

The car maker Skoda produced 910,000 vehicles in its three Czech plants in 2019, which represents a year-on-year increase of 2.25 percent, according to an annual report sent to the ctk news agency.

Overall production was down by 0.9 percent due to a drop in demand on Chinese and Indian markets.

The company’s three Czech plants are in Mladá Boleslav, which manufactured 590,000 cars last year, half of which were the popular Octavias, as well as the Fabia, Scala, Kamiq a Karoq; in Kvasinky which specializes in SUVs and in Vrchlabí which produces car components.

Kvitova in Open Round of 16 at Australian Open

No.7 seed Petra Kvitova beat No.25 seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-1, 6-2 in a third-round match of the first Grand Slam tournament of the season - the Australian Open.

It was a clean match from Kvitova, who struck 18 winners to just 10 unforced errors; Alexandrova's 24 unforced errors outweighed her 12 winners, and the Russian couldn't engineer another break point after earning one in Kvitova's first service game.

In the fourth round Kvitova will play against No. 22 seed Maria Sakkari from Greece who beat Madison Keys 6 :4, 6:4.

Weather forecast

Saturday should be clear to partly cloudy with morning fog and day temperatures between – 2 and 2 degrees Celsius.