Freezing cold weather is continuing for the second day in the Czech Republic, breaking records in places, including the Moravian town of Olomouc, which registered -19.2 degrees Celsius early Sunday morning. The cold has already claimed several lives: a homeless woman was found frozen to death in a park in Prague’s Jarov area, while the cold killed a homeless man in Libeň on Sunday morning. Nine people in Prague have now died in difficult weather conditions since mid-October.
Meteorologists are warning that although travel and transport on the country’s railways and major roads improved, freezing rain expected on Monday could complicate the situation in places. Motorists, as well as pedestrians, have been warned to exercise extra caution. Freezing rain on Monday could also impact electrical networks, officials said.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has confirmed the government is planning on closing down some hospital wards and merging smaller facilities. Speaking on a Sunday TV debate programme he stressed the moves were needed as part of reforms in the health care sector. He also gave full backing to the health minister, Leoš Heger. The minister is in a difficult position as a quarter of the country’s doctors have threatened to quit by the end of the year unless they see a significant pay raise. But hospitals already are strapped for funds: 80 of them finished in the red in the first half of 2010. The prime minister made clear the government would review the network of existing facilities to determine possible changes in status and services.
In related news, the prime minister called a dispute between the Interior Minister Radek John and Police President Oldřich Martinů on Sunday a “sensitive issue” that needed to be carefully handled so as not to impact the coalition government or the country’s security. Mr Nečas said he will meet with both to try and find a solution. Earlier, the interior minister called on the police president to resign, saying that he was highly dissatisfied with the way the country’s elite police units were functioning. He put the blame on Mr Martinů for reportedly not being in control of the situation. For his part, the police president has not taken a decision yet but consulted developments with the country’s president, as has Mr John.
Areas in Ostrava, Karviná and Třinec in the east of the country are suffering poor air quality, the Hydrometeorological Institute reported, with airborne dust particles exceeding six times the tolerable daily limit. On Sunday, experts measured concentrations of particles between 251 and 311 micrograms per cubic metre. Under the circumstances industrial polluters are required to follow pre-arranged steps. Specialists believe the situation will improve throughout Sunday. A day earlier, heavy smog also hit Central Bohemia: the elderly as well as those with a history of breathing or heart problems are recommended to avoid physical exertion when out-of-doors.
Delegates at the regional Civic Democratic Party meeting in Vysočina (the Czech-Moravian highlands) on Saturday urged party leader and Prime Minister Petr Nečas to communicate on a more regular basis with TV viewers to better explain steps taken by the government; this namely, at a time of strict austerity measures. A local mayor raised the issue, saying the prime minister could address the country in a TV broadcast at least once a year. The view was backed by regional officials. Deputy chairwoman and speaker of the lower house Miroslava Němcová noted that although the country’s politicians regularly appear on political debate programmes, in her view, such formats do not always allow a clear message to get across.
A part of the D8 highway from the Czech Republic to Germany on Sunday was blocked for five hours following a collision between a transport truck and a bus which left a number of travelers with light injuries. The worst were light cuts, a broken hand and a concussion. The accident took place shortly after 2 am. Thirty-four of the 45 passengers on the bus, members of a karate team returning from Germany, were sent to a hospital in Ústí nad Labem, to rule out internal injuries or bleeding. Only four people were kept in hospital for further treatment.
Countless Czech children on Sunday evening are awaiting the arrival of Mikuláš (St Nicholas) marked by the Czechs on December 5, although the actual saint’s day falls a day later. Events celebrating Mikuláš are held throughout the country, with kids being rewarded for good behaviour with traditional gifts such as fruit or chocolate. Poorly behaved children, theoretically, can receive lumps of coal or old potatoes. On the day, many adults and students dress-up either as the saint, the angel or the devil, the last of whom threatens to take badly-behaved children away. Czech kids routinely recite a poem or sing a song before the devil is banished and they receive their gift from St Nick.
A number of Czechs shined in the National Hockey League on Saturday, including Milan Hejduk, Tomáš Plekanec and Ondřej Pavelec. Hejduk scored once and earned one assist in Colorado’s 5:6 loss against Tampa Bay. Forward Plekanec scored once in Montreal’s 3:1 win over the San Jose Sharks, and goalie Ondřej Pavelec proved phenomenal in net for his Atlanta Thrashers, turning away 45 shots by the Washington Capitals. The only player to beat him was Alexander Ovechkin; the final score was 3:1 for Atlanta.
Premiership League leaders Chelsea – with goalkeeper Petr Čech – fell to third place at the weekend after drawing 1:1 with Everton. The team has not won in their last four games. During the match, Čech suffered a cut to his face from Cahill’s boot. Despite being bloodied, he returned to the field shortly after. Chelsea led following a successful penalty by Drogba but Everton were able to tie in the 86th minute. Arsenal now lead in the standings, followed by second-place Manchester City.
The hockey club Mladá Boleslav is in apparent danger of being ousted from the Czech Republic’s top hockey league, the news website aktualně.cz reported. According to aktualně, there is information suggesting the club may have falsified documents at the beginning of the season, namely that it had no outstanding debts. It appears the club could still owe money to some players and possibly others. The head of the Extraliga, Stanislav Šulc, refused to comment but made clear the allegations were serious enough to force a general meeting of officials from the Professional Clubs Association (APK) on December 13. Club representatives at Mladá Boleslav, meanwhile, have said they are not aware of any problem.
Freezing rain is expected on Monday with officials warning motorists, as well as pedestrians, to take extra caution. Daytime temperatures will range between -4 and 0 degrees Celsius.