Czech morning news in brief: top stories for Dec. 29, 2020

Date set for lower house elections, another COVID vaccine supply to arrive on Thursday, PES index at 71 for third day in a row Staff

Written by Staff Published on 29.12.2020 08:33:00 (updated on 29.12.2020) Reading time: 6 minutes

Czech general election to be held on Oct. 8–9

Political parties and movements will have to submit their ballots for the 2021 parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic by Aug. 3. President Miloš Zeman declared today that the election would be held on Oct. 8–9. The president's decision still needs to be countersigned by the prime minister.

Regional authorities will decide by Aug. 20 at the latest which political parties have complied with all legal requirements and thus will be allowed to run in the election to the Chamber of Deputies. The ballot numbers will be allocated to them four days later.

Public broadcasters Czech Television and Czech Radio will be able to broadcast the parties' election campaign spots from Sept. 22 until Oct. 6. Election polls must not be released as of Oct. 5.

Zeman called on political parties to submit clear programs without empty phrases. Due to the current coronavirus epidemic, campaigning parties will have to rely more on technical means rather than their contact with voters, Zeman said.

The previous parliamentary election took place on Oct. 20–21, 2017.

COVID 19: PES index at 71 for third day in a row

The coronavirus risk index of the PES anti-epidemic system is at 71 points in Czech Republic for the third day, which is the second-highest COVID alert level out of five, according to the data that the Health Ministry released on its website.

The reproduction number further dropped to 0.85, but three other of the five parameters on which the index is based have worsened, especially the share of infected seniors and the number of new cases in the past 14 days. However, the index remained unchanged.

The reproduction number has been under 1.0 for three days, which means that one positive person infects less than one person a so the spread of the virus is slowing down.

The PES index is at the fourth degree in all Czech regions except for Moravia-Silesia, where it is at the highest degree. But four other regions are close to the fifth degree (from 76 to 100 points). The epidemiological situation is newly the best in South Moravia where the index decreased from 71 to 64 points. In Prague it increased from 61 to 66 points.

Restrictions corresponding to the highest fifth alert level have been in force since Dec. 27 and the strict regime is to last until Jan. 10 at least. All shops had to close except for those selling essentials.

Since March, the Czech Republic has reported a total of 685,202 COVID-19 cases. The increase in cases from the previous day is 10,881. There have been 576,499 recoveries. There are currently 97,401 active COVID-19 cases in the Czech Republic. There are 5,395 hospitalized. The country has reported 11,302 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The daily rise in new cases has been the third highest since November 7. It was higher only last Tuesday and Wednesday. More tests were carried out this week than during Christmas, but the number of tests per day is still lower than before the Christmas holidays.

Babiš for six doses to be used from one COVID vaccine ampule

PM Andrej Babiš (ANO) asked European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to approve as soon as possible that six doses instead of the current five could be used from one COVID-19 vaccine ampule, he tweeted tonight.

This would enable more people to be vaccinated in a shorter time. In the Czech Republic, for instance, the number of the ordered eight million doses would rise by 1.6 million, Babis (ANO) said, speaking about the vaccine from the Pfizer and BioNTech firms, the application of which started in the EU on Sunday.

He argues that a similar procedure has worked in some other countries using the same vaccine.

“This has been confirmed in the USA and the Israeli Health Ministry has also approved this procedure. Since the morning, I have received information from many Czech hospitals saying six doses can be injected without problems from one ampule,” Babiš tweeted.

Consequently, the EU could use 360 million vaccine doses instead of 300 million, he added.

“I hope that the EC president will be tackling this urgently,” Babiš said. “Now, the sixth dose is thrown into a litter bin, which is naturally wrong,” he told Nova, adding that a similar view was heard from Germany.

Another COVID vaccine supply to arrive on Thursday

The Health Ministry expects another supply of some 19,000 doses of the vaccine against COVID-19 to arrive in the Czech Republic on Thursday, Dec. 31, ministry spokeswoman Barbora Peterová told the Czech News Agency (ČTK). The doses should be distributed to hospitals in the regions, she added.

Vaccine producer Pfizer reported that the delay of the supply to the EU countries had been caused by logistic problems.

Regional hospitals, for instance, in the Ústí nad Labem and Moravia-Silesia regions, originally expected the vaccine Dec. 28 and planned to start vaccinating their healthcare personnel.

Ústí Governor Jan Schiller (ANO) said he had received no official statement though they should have let him know two to three days in advance. Moravia-Silesia Regional Governor Ivo Vondrák (ANO) said the first vaccine supply would arrive in the region on Dec. 31.

The anti-COVID vaccination was launched in the first four hospitals in Prague and two in Brno, the second largest city in Czech Republic on Sunday. Each city received a half of the 9,750 vaccine doses in the first supply. About 1,260 people were vaccinated against COVID-19 in the country on Sunday. They all will have to get another dose in some 21 days.

Babiš: New Year luncheon at presidential manor meets COVID rules

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) and his family plan to attend the annual New Year luncheon hosted by Czech President Miloš Zeman at the Lány presidential manor and the visit complies with all anti-epidemic measures, Babiš told ČTK

The Czech Republic is at the highest, fifth level of alert over the coronavirus epidemic and strict measures are in force, including a ban on meetings of more than two people in public.

The luncheon in Lány is still scheduled on Jan. 3, Zeman's spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told new server iDnes.

The server remarked that it would be a meeting of seven people. According to Babiš, it is a home visit. Opposition representatives criticism the hosting of annual meetings amid the coronavirus restrictions on social media.

“It is like a home visit since the Lány manor is a seat of the president of the republic and Mr President de facto lives there. Such a visit fully complies with the valid anti-epidemic measures," Babiš wrote to CTK.

Opposition representatives argue that the representative luncheon contradicts the rules amid the coronavirus restrictions.

Customs officers find 462 kg of khat at Prague Airport

Customs officers have found 462 kilograms of khat at the Václav Havel Airport Prague in cargo shipped from Dubai, spokeswoman for airport customs officers Šárka Miškovská told ČTK.

Even though some consignments containing khat have been found at the Prague airport already, it has never been in such a large quantity. The dried plants were in paper boxes.

“Expert analysis confirmed they are sprouts of Catha Edulis - khat, a plant containing the alkaloid cathinone and cathine listed among addictive substances,” Miškovská said. Both import and export of these substances is a crime.

Khat is a tree or a bush grown in eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It contains stimulants that have similar effects as amphetamine. Mostly leaves and young sprouts of the plant are used, chewed like chewing tobacco. Long-term excessive consumption of khat triggers mental problems and other health issues.

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