CNN names Czech Ledecká an "athlete to watch" in Beijing

Plus: IBM opens Artificial Intelligence center in Prague, HIV cases dropped in the Czech Republic in 2021, and Škoda unveils new electric car.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 01.02.2022 09:29:00 (updated on 01.02.2022) Reading time: 6 minutes

15:30 Pirate Party leader claims electronic ID could be reality by 2023

By 2023, Czechs could start using an electronic ID card in addition to their existing physical personal data card, according to Pirate Party leader and Minister for Regional Development Ivan Bartoš. The same could be true of driving licenses. Bartoš said that many people would choose to stick with a physical card but it should also be possible to identify oneself on a mobile phone or other electronic device. The new Czech government included the gradual digitization of state services as a policy program commitment, with changes expected by the beginning of 2025. It also wants to abolish the obligation to carry around an ID card as soon as possible once alternative means of identification are in place.

14:08 Prague anti-Covid protests turn violent

A protest held outside the Czech parliament over the proposed extension of the pandemic law turned violent this afternoon. Several protestors attacked police officers who were ensuring that the debate and the protests proceeded smoothly. One officer was injured, and four attackers were detained by police. In a repeat of protests held last week, gallows again appeared outside the parliament in a threat to MPs voting on the amendment to the pandemic law. Police estimate that around 1,500 protestors were present at today's demonstration in Malostranské náměstí.

Sport CNN names Czech Ledecká an "athlete to watch" in Beijing

American broadcaster CNN has named Czech snowboarder and skier Ester Ledecká one of its 25 "athletes to watch" in the Beijing Winter Olympics starting on Friday. At the previous games, Ledecká became the first ever athlete to compete in both snowboarding and alpine skiing events at the same Olympics; and she won gold in both disciplines. She won the super-G skiing event and later the parallel giant slalom snowboard race. Her astonishing achievement was the first time in 90 years that an athlete won gold in two different sports at the same Winter Olympics.

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Business IBM opens Artificial Intelligence center in Prague

Technology company IBM has opened a Prague center for the use of artificial intelligence and data processing. It also launched similar centers in Moscow and Warsaw. The value of the investment is not yet known. Prague was picked as a base for the company's AI activities because of the advanced development of AI implementation in the country. The latest Digital Economy and Society Index report from the European Union found that 40 per cent of Czech companies use AI technology, way ahead of the EU average of 25 per cent. IBM's new center will provide customer service, employing developers, data scientists and security experts.

Health HIV cases dropped in the Czech Republic in 2021

HIV incidence in the Czech Republic fell by seven per cent in 2021 compared to 2020. 233 HIV-positive cases were recorded last year according to the National Institute of Public Health in data released yesterday. AIDS developed in 52 patients, a fifth more than in 2020, while 19 people died of the disease last year, one more than in the previous year. HIV incidence has fallen since reaching a peak in 2016, when 286 cases were confirmed. It's thought that since records began in 1985, 4,074 people in the Czech Republic have caught HIV. Most of those infected are men: last year only 32 women caught HIV. Just over half of the recorded cases were in Czech citizens (131), while the rest were in foreigners with long-term residence (102).

Prague Burnt-down wing of Industrial Palace to be rebuilt

The Industrial Palace at Prague’s Výstaviště is today being handed over by City Hall to construction company Metrostav for reconstruction. The commencement of building works comes after a long-winded approval process over the renewal of a large portion of the palace which burnt down in 2008.

Ruins of the burnt-down wing of the Industrial Palace after the fire / photo Wikimedia Commons, Adam Zivner, CC BY-SA 3.0
Ruins of the burnt-down wing of the Industrial Palace after the fire / photo Wikimedia Commons, Adam Zivner, CC BY-SA 3.0

The building consortium will create a replica of the original burnt-down wing of the building equipped with modern technologies including heat pumps and air conditioning. A new basement will also be created under the wing providing a space for exhibitions. The contract for rebuilding the burnt-down wing of the palace was originally announced in 2018, but canceled in 2019 due to an incorrect listing. The palace was built in 1891 for the Jubilee Provincial Exhibition, and was designed by architect Bedřich Munzberger.

Economy Get ready for another interest rate hike, say analysts

A poll of Czech economic analysts by Reuters resulted in a prediction that the Czech National Bank will deliver at least one more large interest rate hike when it meets this Thursday. By increasing the base rate over recent months, the bank has looked to tackle spiraling inflation by encouraging people to save money rather than spend.

The base rate has gone up by a total of 300 points in three recent hikes; the increase of 125 basis points in November 2021 was the largest rate increase seen in the Czech Republic for 24 years. Now, nine out of ten of the analysts contacted by Reuters expect interest rates to rise still further, with an increase of another 75 points to a 20-year high of 4.50 per cent predicted.

On the road New motorway toll stamps needed from today

Motorway toll stamps in the Czech Republic must be renewed as of today, with drivers rushing last week to switch from 2021 to 2022 stamps allowing them to continue using the Czech motorways. The Czech Republic is now using an electronic sales system for motorways stamps, sales of which hit around 25,000 a day last week. Nearly a million stamps which have still not been renewed will expire today.

The electronic system, which came into effect last year, sees stamps linked to vehicle license plates, making it no longer necessary for them to be glued to car windshields. Stamps this year cost the same as last year: an annual stamp is CZK 1,500, a 30-day stamp is CZK 440, and a ten-day stamp is CZK 310. New Minister of Transport Martin Kupka has already discussed the possibility that prices could increase in the coming years.

Business Škoda unveils new electric car model

Czech car giant Škoda has expanded its electric vehicle range by unveiling the new Enyaq Coupé iV. The new electric model will be sold in Europe alongside a faster Rally Sport version. It has two different battery sizes and can use either rear for four-wheel drive.

The new Enyaq Coupé follows the introduction of the Enyaq iV model in 2020, an electric SUV based on a modular electric vehicle platform owned by the Czech brand’s parent company Volkswagen. Škoda has since then also created plug-in hybrid models of its Superb and Octavia models. According to Škoda leaders, sales of the new Enyaq iV exceeded expectations, and this may be behind a decision by the company to shift its focus towards all-electric vehicles and away from PHEV plug-in hybrids.

Crime Manhunt on for Czech who falsified foreigners’ documents

Czech police are searching for a man from South Bohemia who is suspected of falsifying the health records of female foreign employees. It’s alleged the two employees tested positive for Covid-19 last year but the man hid the fact in order to let them continue coming to work. He presented their counterfeited health reports at the foreign police department in Písek.

If found guilty, the man, 45, faces up to eight years in prison for actions to spread an infectious disease during a state of national emergency. Police added that the man himself was also positive for Covid at the time he visited the Písek police department to provide the falsified health records. It’s thought the man purposefully disregarded Covid quarantine at least twice.

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