Doctors across the Czech Republic began to vaccinate nationwide against swine flu on Monday. The government has around 95,000 doses of vaccine earmarked for doctors to use on high risk and priority groups such as the chronically sick and health workers. The State Institute for Drug Control said on Monday that a single dose of the vaccine could also be given to children over 10.
Chief hygiene officer Michael Vít has said the virus has changed little since April so the vaccine has a high chance of being effective. Some doctors have called for the government to give additional legal safeguards that they will not be liable for prosecution if patients suffer severe side effects from the vaccine.
Swine flu is believed to have claimed its fourth victim in the Czech Republic on Sunday. Around 1.0 million Czechs should be vaccinated against swine flu with around 2.5 million receiving the flu anti-virus.
In related news, the western Karlovy Vary region on Monday banned all patient visits at its hospitals because of swine flu fears. The ban was already in force for the Cheb district but has been widened to cover Sokolov and Karlovy Vary. Acute breathing problems which are symptomatic of swine flu has reached epidemic levels in the region with over 2,000 people per 100,000 infected.
Czech Muslims have called for a public debate with the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders. A spokesman for a Brno grouping of Muslims and sympathisers said they had sent an offer on Monday to rent halls in Prague and Brno where Mr Wilders can screen his anti-Islamic film, Fitna, and afterwards engage in a debate. A top Civic Democrat senator last week invited Wilders to screen his film in the Czech upper house of parliament but the move was blocked by Senate bosses.
A Czech artist transformed the memorial to the student revolution of November 17 1989 in Prague’s Národní Třída. Roman Týc added plaques showing hands making the Nazi salute and the one finger sign with the dates November 17, 1939 and November 17, 2009 underneath on either side of the original plaque. This shows hands making the ‘V’ for victory sign with the date of the start of the Velvet Revolution which overthrew Communism underneath. The magnetic additions were removed by authorities on Monday. Týc in the past transformed Prague traffic lights by adding figures such as a hanging man and was part of a group that hijacked a Czech television broadcast to show images of an atom bomb explosion.
The Social Democrats would win elections and could form a government with the support of the Communists according to a poll by the Factum Invenio agency released on Monday. It showed the Social Democrats backed by 29.1 percent of respondents, shortly ahead of the Civic Democrats with 26.7 percent. The Communists come in third place with 12.9 percent and TOP 09 with 11.6 percent. The percentages translate into 75 seats in the lower house for the Social Democrats, 64 for the Civic Democrats, 30 for the Communists, 23 for Top 09 and eight for the Christian Democrats.
The head of the Czech army contingent serving in Kosovo has been relieved of his command, Minister of Defence Martin Barták announced on Monday. The suspension will stay in force until an investigation is completed into the shooting last week of a Czech soldier apparently by a colleague. A team of army investigators flew out on Monday. The minister said this was the latest of a series of problems with the Kosovo contingent. Soldiers were reported at the start of the month to have been smoking marihuana.
The Czech government expressed its regret on Monday that Roma women were sterilised in the past without their full consent. A spokesman said the move was not an apology since the government could not apologise for the individual mistakes of certain doctors. Minister for Human Rights and Minorities, Michael Kocáb, said that safeguards had been drawn up to make sure such a step could not happen in the future.
The number of Roma women who were sterilised in the Czech Republic after 1990 is not clear. Around 80 women complained to the Czech ombudsman Otakar Motejl. He found that women were not properly informed about the step they were taking and could not therefore be said to have given their full consent.
The number of payment cards issued in the Czech Republic has risen to 9.1 million. The Bank Card Association said 154,000 new cards have been issued over the last year. Czechs are using the cards more for payments in shops than to take money out of cash machines it added. Figures for the third quarter alone showed 50 million transactions in shops compared with 39 million at cash machines. The amounts used for payments in shops was also falling, the association said.
The manager of Prague’s public transport authority has announced that 330 people out of its current 11,000 strong workforce will lose their jobs in January. Most of those losing their jobs are from the maintenance department, Martin Dvořák said. He added that the job losses had been agreed with unions on Friday. Lay-offs in three phases were planned but he refused to give further details. Forced redundancies were one of the points that resulted in unions threatening earlier a strike earlier this month that would have brought the tram, bus and metro system to a halt. The transport authority said in October that it envisaged sacking 500 people in 2010.
Sunny weather is expected to give way to showers on Tuesday with maximum daytime temperatures of 11 degrees Celsius. Forecasters have given warnings about high winds reaching hurricane force on high ground from Monday night.