Czech daily news roundup: Friday, December 10, 2021

Reading charity supports hundreds of projects, fish decorations bringing life back to Bečva, shoemaker wins entrepreneur of the year award. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 10.12.2021 09:24:00 (updated on 11.12.2021) Reading time: 8 minutes

21:30 Slovakia relaxes Covid restrictions for the vaccinated

All shops in Slovakia have reopened after two weeks of closure, although only people with certificates showing vaccination against Covid or recovery from the disease in the last six months will be allowed to enter them. Health experts warn the relaxation of measures goes too far at this stage of the pandemic, warning that the country’s relatively large proportion of unvaccinated people poses a significant risk. Some necessities such as food stores, pharmacies, banks and post offices will remain open to all citizens regardless of their vaccination status. Slovakia declared a lockdown at the end of November in response to the strain placed on the nation’s healthcare system by Covid patients. 

21:00 Man sentenced to life for 2009 double murder

Pavel Narozný, aged 46, was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for the November 2009 murders of a married couple whose bodies have still not been found. The court followed the proposal of a prosecutor who said Narozný poses a significant risk to society. The sentence incorporates Narozný’s previous 13-year conviction for preparing the murder. Narozný’s mother was also implicated in the case, but she died since the events in 2009 took place. The authorities declared the victims of the crime dead although their bodies were never found die to the nature of traces left at the crime scene. The murders were carried out as a result of a property dispute: for fear of being disinherited, Narozný switched off the electricity in his father’s house and then murdered both him and his father's wife. Narozný was found guilty based on traces left in his father’s car, which was used to transport the bodies, the testimony of a neighbor, and the fact that the victims;’ personal documents and payment cards were later found in a piano belonging to his mother.

18:30 Funeral of dissident Petr Uhl held in Prague

Family members, friends and colleagues of the late Communist-era dissident Petr Uhl, who died on December 1 aged 80, gathered at his funeral at the Prague-Strašnice crematorium, which was symbolically held on yesterday’s international Human Rights Day. Friends remembered Uhl as an open and courageous man willing to give up his personal freedom for his beliefs. President Miloš Zeman as well as the Culture Ministry, the French and Slovak embassies, the Polish Senate and other international institutions sent wreath to the funeral. Uhl’s family wanted the funeral to celebrate his life. Uhl was one of the founding signatories of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto, and was a member of the Civic Forum movement centered around Václav Havel. After the fall of Communism, Uhl headed the Czech News Agency, and later worked for other publications.

16:20 New Social Democrat leader elected

The Czech Social Democrat party (ČSSD) have elected Michal Šmarda as their new party Chairman. Šmarda received 130 out of 233 votes, beating the other two candidates Jana Maláčová and Miroslav Krejčík. Maláčová received 62 votes while Krejčík got 41. Šmarda was Deputy Chairman of the party from March 2019 to August 2021 under previous leader Jan Hamáček, who resigned after the Social Democrats failed to gain any seats in parliament in the October general election. Šmarda said the leadership comes with a major responsibility at a time when there is no left-wing party sitting in the lower house of the Czech parliament.

15:10 Senate Chairman to give New Year’s address

Czech Senate Chairman Miloš Vystrčil will deliver a New Year’s address on January 1, following the tradition set by his predecessor. The previous leader of the lower house of the Czech parliament, Radek Vondráček, also gave a New Year’s address; the new Speaker, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, has not yet confirmed whether she will follow suit. Addresses from the heads of the Czech parliament came about in response to President Miloš Zeman’s decision to move the traditional presidential address from January 1 to December 26. Outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babiš will also give a speech in the evening on January 1. If the new government is in place by that time, the speech may instead be given by incoming Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

14:25 Incoming Health Minister lays out Covid plan

Incoming Czech Health Minister Vlastimil Válek has asked Czechs to reduce their social contacts during the Christmas holidays. Speaking after a meeting with Czech President Miloš Zeman to discuss his agenda as Health Minister, Válek said the country must prepare to tackle the Omicron Covid variant, with a plan currently being prepared by a team led by epidemiologist Roman Chlíbek. Válek discussed the new variant with Zeman, having earlier in the day attended a meeting between the incoming coalition’s AntiCovid team and representatives of the Ministry of Health, still led by incumbent Health Minister Adam Vojtěch.

13:40 Controversy erupts as Zeman rejects Foreign Minister candidate

Czech President Miloš Zeman has refused to name Czech Pirate Party MP Jan Lipavský as the nation’s new Foreign Minister, claiming his low qualifications and poor relations with Israel and the Visegrád Four make him unsuited to the role. Zeman’s stance was posted on the Presidential Office webpage today. Zeman claims the Czech constitution does not impose on him the duty to accept any proposal presented to him. He said he also has reservations about other candidates. In response, incoming Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the dispute should be resolved by the Czech Constitutional Court.

12:26 President Zeman's health condition improving

Czech President Miloš Zeman's clinical state is satisfactory, stable, and shows steady improvement, and it can further improve with additional rehabilitation, his doctors said today. The president's doctors met in Prague's Central Military Hospital (UVN) this morning. Zeman, 77, was transferred to UVN on October 10 with issues caused by an unspecified chronic disease later indicated to be cirrhosis. After his November 25 release from the hospital, Zeman tested positive for coronavirus, returning to UVN for two days to receive antibodies. His quarantine ends today.

10:15 Energy import prices rose sharply in October

The import price of fuel and energy rose by a huge 124.2% year-on-year in October, while the prices of exports increased by 104.6%. The sharp increases are the result of a Europe-wide energy crisis with supplies short throughout the EU. Prices of other raw materials also rose, including metal ores, scrap metal and wood also rose significantly, as did semi-finished goods such as iron, steel and other metals, as well as chemicals. The results confirm reports from many industrial companies that the prices of raw materials for production have increased significantly over the last six months. Around 27% of companies have seen price increases of over 50% in their purchases of raw materials.

08:30 Snow complications continue throughout the Czech Republic

Snowfall today is less dramatic than it was on Thursday, but traffic complications are still being seen throughout the Czech Republic. Roads are now passable, but drivers are warned that increased caution is needed as slush remains in some areas while more snowfall is possible today. Some roads in Moravia remain closed to heavy goods vehicles due to ongoing issues with snow on the roads, while small roads throughout the country may still be covered with snow or ice. The Prague ring road should also be used with caution due to snow falling in the Central Bohemian Region this morning.

Charity Reading Helps charity supports hundreds of projects

The Reading Helps charity project marked its ten-year anniversary by announcing the total number of projects it has supported to boost kids’ literacy levels. The charity aims to develop a love of reading, help children understand texts, and encourage an appreciation for charity work.

The organization announced that in ten years of operations, it has supported a total of 572 projects with millions of crowns of support. The project gathers this support by asking children to read books and answer test questions correctly, for which kids receive a CZK 50 credit to be donated to foundations for children, adults or animals in need. While providing support for worthy causes, the project aims to halt a worrying decrease in reading as a pastime among young people; data suggests that the proportion of non-readers among adolescents rose from 15% in 2017 to 30% in 2021.

Environment Carp-shaped decorations bring life back to Bečva

The Fish for Bečva fundraising appeal has raised almost CZK 120,000 through the sale of glass ornaments in the shape of carp. The project is raising money for the Czech Fishermen’s Association after the river Bečva in the Zlín Region was poisoned in September 2020 by a chemical spill.

Around 40 tons of fish died in a 40-kilometer stretch of the river as a result of the poisoning. More than 4,000 ornaments in the shape of fish have been sold since the start of the year, with record interest now being seen in the run-up to Christmas. The glass carp are crafted and painted by hand, available in two color combinations, one symbolizing life and the other symbolizing the poisoned Bečva.

Innovation Shoemaker wins entrepreneur of the year award

The IBM Company of the Year 2021 awards have been held at Prague’s Žofín palace. Phonexia, a company developing speech analytics and voice biometrics technologies, won company of the year, while the entrepreneur (Živnostník) of the year award went to Eva Klabalová, a creator of shoes from recycled materials.

Klabalová makes shoes from waste materials using innovative processing technologies which ensure each individual shoe is unique in color. Phonexia, the winner of the best company award, is the first company in the world to offer technology using only artificial neural networks to identify a speaker, capable of recognizing identity, gender and spoken language, and of transcribing speech into text.

Foreign aid Czech Republic to give medical assistance to Moldova

The Intensive Care Department of the Moldovan Ministry of Health’s Clinical Hospital will be equipped with 20 beds and medical equipment thanks to financial support from the Czech government. The CZK 1 million grant approved by the government is intended to improve the provision of medical services in Moldova.

The Czech Ministry of Health said the grant will enable the provision of high-quality healthcare services in light of the Covid pandemic. The delivery project started on December 5 and will continue until September 30. This is the third such project undertaken in Moldova by the Ministry of Health: in 2020, two separate grants were given by the Czech government to support hospitals in the country.

Business Grocery delivery service Bolt to enter Czech Republic

Estonian ride rental and delivery provider Bolt aims to expand its services to 10 more European countries at the start of next year, including the Czech Republic and neighboring Poland. The expansion has been made possible by raising CZK 13.5 billion from investors this year in a bid to reposition Bolt as a “super-app,” expanding its services to range from food and e-commerce deliveries to taxi, scooter and short-term car rental services.

Bolt already provides ride rental and delivery services in seven European countries, but in the Czech Republic it will face stiff competition from local players such as Rohlík, Wolt and other providers. Part of Bolt’s expansion, though, will involve innovative services such as a car-rental app in which cars may be unlocked using the app and rented by the minute.

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