Dr Knut Erik Hovda from the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Centre in Oslo who last week brought an antidote to methanol to Prague to help deal with the outbreak of methanol poisonings has expressed grave concern with regards to the crisis. He said the situation was very serious and the authorities did not have things under control. He moreover noted that in view of the high costs of the antidote fomepisole Czech doctors only used it in extreme cases treating other victims with ethanol which was far less effective and not without side-effects.
Czech spirits producers and importers are losing about 15 million crowns on net sales every day as a result of the ban. Some have restricted production and may be laying-off staff. Restaurants and bars report a steep drop in profits and a drop in regular customers. The state is also reported to be losing around 25 million in taxes each day. The estimate includes a drop in excise duty as well as value added tax.
Methanol poisoning claimed another victim on Sunday evening, bringing the number of deaths in the country to 21. A 47-year-old woman from the eastern city of Český Těšín died after two days of hospitalisation. More than 35 people remain in hospital in different parts of the country, though most of the cases have occurred in Moravia. A Prague hospital admitted a second person from the capital for methanol poisoning on Sunday. More than 30,000 inspections have been carried out in bars, restaurants and street stalls since Friday evening. Police have charged 23 people around the country in connection with the outbreak
Reports of methanol poisoning also emerged from Slovakia on Sunday, with four people hospitalised in the eastern city of Prešov. The patients had reportedly been drinking hard alcohol produced in the Czech Republic at a party. Six others who attended the party were admitted to hospital with headaches, but have not been diagnosed with methanol poisoning. In the meantime, Polish authorities have banned the sale of spirits from the Czech Republic.
Almost three days after a country-wide ban on sales of hard liquor was put in place, the number of people hospitalized as well as deaths resulting from methanol poisoning has not abated. The announcement about the 21st victim dying in a hospital in Ostrava came early on Monday morning. The Czech police claim to be making significant progress in tracking down the sources of alcohol with excessive amounts of methanol, but no clear picture of how the spate of poisonings became so widespread has emerged yet.
A Prague hospital has admitted a second person for methanol poisoning on Sunday. The fifty-eight year old man is conscious and admitted to drinking whiskey or cognac with a man who was hospitalized on Friday evening. More than 30 people have been hospitalised and are being treated in different parts of the country, but most victims are from Moravia. A sixty-three year-old man died on Sunday in the town of Přerov in the Olomouc region. The man was believed to have died from methanol poisoning, which would have brought the death rate up to 20, but later hospital staff announced the cause of death was excessive amounts of ethanol.
The Czech Health Minister Leoš Heger said on a Czech Television talk show on Sunday that he will try to adjust the ban on hard liquor as quickly as possible, but that right now the blanket ban that was insituted on Friday night is a necessity. As soon as the police find all the sources of the alcohol with poisonous levels of methanol, and the number of vicitims begins to decrease, Minister Heger said he can imagine restricting the ban to certain localities or products. He hopes that ban will be lifted in less than a month, but did not rule the possibility that it may take longer.
The Czech police have brought charges against 23 people in connection to the methanol poisoning around the country, which has claimed the lives of 19 people so far. Four people were charged on Sunday. Members of the emergency task force announced on Saturday that excessive amounts of methyl alcohol were found in 36 samples of hard liquor. Some had more than 26 times the legal amount. More than 30,000 inspections in bars, restaurants and street stalls were carried out by the police since Friday evening, when a ban on the sale of all liquor with more than 20 percent alcohol content was announced. The police is focusing not only on the producers and distributors of the laced alcohol, but now also on the suppliers of the raw methanol. There may actually be a single source of the methanol used in the bootleg liquor, according to the police. Police president Martin Červíček said on Saturday that the investigation has made significant progress especially in the Zlín, Olomouc and Silesian regions. Yet, Mr Červíček underscored that the laced alcohol is not coming from a single source, and that the investigation is still in progress.
Large supermarket chains around the Czech Republic have announced that they have taken all hard alcohol products off their shelves overnight, following a ban that was issued late Friday evening. Chains such as Tesco, Billa and Kaufland said they had employees working night shifts on Friday night in order to comply with the government ban. The Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority has announced that liquor stronger than 20 percent does not have to be taken off the shelves, but must be covered from view, and blocked in the cashier systems by all retailers. The police carried out inspections in supermarkets and shops throughout the night. Alcohol producers, restaurants and storeowners have criticized the ban, saying it will only promote illegal sales of alcohol. The ban was issued by the government indefinitely, until the case of bootleg liquor which has caused fatal methanol poisoning is resolved. So far, approximately 19 people were arrested in connection with the case, but a single source of poisoned alcohol has not been determined yet.
The police have now arrested 19 people in connection with methyl alcohol
poisonings around the country. The arrests came in three regions:
Moravia-Silesia, Zlín, and
Olomouc. The latest two suspects were arrested in Zlín on Saturday
morning. Two others from the Zlín region have already been charged for
breaking the law on product labeling. As of Saturday afternoon, charges
have been brought against 13 people in connection to the case. A number of
others have been arrested and are being questioned by the police. Arrests
were made in different parts of the country, and most of the accused do
seem to be a part of a single case.
In recent days the consumption of laced bootleg liquor across the country claimed the lives of 19 people. Seven more people were hospitalized with methanol poisoning since Friday afternoon.
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