The Czech minister of defence, Martin Barták, and the chief of staff of the country’s army, Vlastimil Picek, have reversed a decision to have all Czech soldiers inoculated against the swine flu virus. The turnaround was announced on Wednesday after the Czech president, Václav Klaus, issued a statement condemning blanket vaccinations of troops; the president said soldiers ought to be allowed to decide for themselves on the matter and should not be treated as guinea pigs. Meanwhile, the number of deaths from swine flu in the Czech Republic has risen to 95, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Thirty percent fewer Czechs took sick leave from work in 2009 than in the previous year, according to figures from the country’s social welfare authority quoted by Lidové noviny. Figures for last year were as much as 40 percent lower than in 2007, the newspaper said. The fall is evidently due to a change in the benefits system under which no money is paid during the first three days of an illness. The man behind that change, former social affairs minister Petr Necaš, said absenteeism in the Czech Republic had simply fallen to normal levels for European Union states.
Two men were arrested after a shooting incident at a graveyard in the Moravian town of Opava on Wednesday. The two raided the funeral services office at the cemetery where one of them shot an undertaker, aged 24, in both legs after ordering his colleague to leave the office. The Czech News Agency reported that the gunmen had accused the victim of stealing tens of thousands of crowns from the flat of one of the two’s late father; they said that when the body had been removed the cash had also disappeared.
A Prague court has overturned a ban on the Communist Youth Union. In 2006 the Ministry of the Interior outlawed the young Communists on the grounds that their manifesto was in contravention of both the Czech constitution and the country’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. However, the Prague City Court overruled that decision on Wednesday. It had previously thrown out a lawsuit from the Communist Youth Union, but was ordered to hear the latest complaint by the Supreme Administrative Court.
Temperatures fell to as low as -30.7 degrees Celsius in the Czech Republic on Tuesday night, the coldest night so far this year. Record lows of around -25 were recorded at several places. Tuesday’s freeze caused railway tracks to crack in some parts of the country, leading to delays. One man froze to death in the Prague district of Jinonice during the night, some people were treated for frostbite, and a boat used as a shelter for the homeless in the Czech capital housed 259 people, the most ever seen for one night. Forecasters said temperatures would rise on Wednesday, but warned of snow and strong winds. The lowest temperature ever recorded in the country was -42.2 degrees Celsius, in 1929.
The Holocaust represented pure evil that could be reawakened in the future, the Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, said at a ceremony at the Czech Senate marking Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday. He said the Holocaust defied comprehension and belief, adding that such evil remained within mankind and could, unfortunately, be revived. Mr Fischer is himself of Jewish origin and has in recent years developed an interest in the religion. January 27 is the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi’s Auschwitz death camp in 1945.
The Czech Minister for the Environment Jan Dusík has sidestepped a decision over an environmental impact assessment for ČEZ’s modernisation of a controversial coal plant. The assessment will now be given to a foreign company. Czech power giant ČEZ is planning to invest 25 billion crowns at Pruněřov in the northwest of the Czech Republic. The name of the company tasked to carry out the assessment will be published by the end of the week. Czech and international environmental groups as well as the small Pacific island state of Micronesia oppose the expansion of the plant on grounds that it will cause environmental damage and contribute to the raising of sea levels. ČEZ claims that the new plant will have a 39-percent efficiency rating.
One hundred and fifty-seven new cases of HIV were recorded in the Czech Republic in 2009, the highest number ever for a single year, according to figures released by the National HIV/AIDS Programme. In 2008 148 fresh cases were discovered. To date a total of 1,344 people are known to have contracted HIV in the Czech Republic; some 292 of them developed AIDS, of which 156 died.
The Czech Republic’s international football squad may take part in a tournament in the USA next year that would also involve Turkey, the president of the country’s football association, Ivan Hašek, told journalists on Wednesday. Negotiations are underway regarding the tournament, which would take place in the second half of May. The Czechs also have friendlies lined up against Scotland in March and Morocco in August.
The former Czech international Marek Jankulovski could leave Italian giants AC Milan for Baník Ostrava during the summer, the newspaper Sport reported. The 32-year-old, who plays at both left back and on the wing, started his career at the Czech club. His agent told Sport that the move depended on whether Milan wanted to keep the player on their books next season. Jankulovski joined the club in 2005 and was part of the team that won the Champions League in 2007.
Former Czech president Václav Havel was the guest of honour at the Czech launch of the latest album by the rock band Plastic People of the Universe at Prague’s Akropolis club on Tuesday night. It was the group’s imprisonment by the communist regime that sparked the Charter 77 protest movement, in which Mr Havel was a key figure. The Plastic People’s LP Maska za maskou (The Mask behind the Mask) is their first since 2001 and the first written since the death of main songwriter Milan “Mejla” Hlavsa.
In the coming days temperatures are expected to reach a maximum of around 0 degrees Celsius. Grey skies and snow should give way to sunny spells.