Czech PM Andrej Babiš requests resignation of Health Minister Roman Prymula

The Prime Minister has requested Prymula resign following photos published of the Health Minister without a mask outside a Prague restaurant

Jason Pirodsky

Written by Jason Pirodsky
Published on 23.10.2020 11:25 (updated on 23.10.2020)

Hours after local tabloid Blesk published photographs of Roman Prymula without a face mask outside a Prague restaurant, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has requested the health minister's resignation.

Babiš spoke at a press conference aired on Czech Television this morning. He also requested the resignation of Jaroslav Faltýnek, ANO head in the Czech Chamber of Deputies, who was photographed without a mask outside the same restaurant shortly after Prymula.

"It's an absolute shock to me, I don't understand when we ask people to follow the rules, wear veils even in the car, and complicate people's lives by closing restaurants and shops, restricting people's movement, we have to lead by example." said Babiš. 

"I don't care what the Minister and Mr. Faltynek did there. We can't preach water and drink wine. I think that the Minister should lead by example without further ado."

"For that reason, I've asked the Minister to resign. If he doesn't, I'll dismiss him. I've asked Mr. Faltínek to resign as First Vice-President of the YES movement. I'm very sorry, he apologized to everyone for that."

According to the Prime Minister, he will now meet with Czech President Miloš Zeman and expects to announce a new Health Minister at a press conference this afternoon.

While Prymula said during an interview with Respekt that he didn't think he did much wrong, he did admit a short violation of the regulation to wear a face mask while outdoors, and stated that he will resign if the Czech public demands it.

Prymula, himself an epidemiologist, has been one of the Czech Republic's most prominent figures during the COVID-19 epidemic since March.

At that time, he served as Deputy Health Minister under Health Minister Adam Vojtěch. In mid-May, Prymula resigned from that post; the Prime Minister later offered him the role of Government Plenipotentiary for Science and Research in Health Care, which he held from June to September.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the Czech Republic has continued a dramatic rise under Prymula's tenure, with a record of nearly 15,000 cases reported on Wednesday.

While Prymula's credentials as a health expert remain largely unchallenged, his unfiltered comments to the press, including a March statement that Czech borders may remain closed for two years, have drawn sharp criticism.

According to Babiš, Prymula's maskless appearance outside a Prague restaurant on Wednesday evening was a similar gaffe.

"In short, such a thing should not happen," Babiš stated.

"This mistake came at the worst time. I'm terribly sorry, but there is simply no other solution."

Babiš added that no member of the Czech government, including himself, is not replaceable.

This is a breaking news story. We will update with more information as it becomes available.