Czech morning news in brief: top stories for Feb. 5, 2021

New safety app warns people of approaching trams, people protest for Navalny’s release, extreme cold expected. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 05.02.2021 09:53:00 (updated on 05.02.2021) Reading time: 4 minutes

INTERNATIONAL: Prague demonstrators call on Russia to release Navalny

About 100 people gathered outside the Rudolfinum to call on Russia to immediately release opposition leader Alexei Navalny and end political repressions. Protest organizer Anton Litvin said the 32-month prison sentence for Navalny will be prolonged as long as Vladimir Putin is in power. Participants in the protest signed a petition calling for the reassessment of European relations with Russia and the postponement of negotiations on cooperation until all political prisoners in Russia are released, free elections are held, and the annexed territory is returned to Ukraine. Participants in the two-hour protest observed social distancing and wore face coverings. About 10 police were present to supervise the observance of the coronavirus restrictions.

PUBLIC TRANSIT: Safety app warns pedestrians of approaching trams

The Prague Public Transit Company has started testing a new app called Pozor tramvaj! (Attention tram!) that warns pedestrians and cyclists that they are in the way of an approaching tram. Testing has started on tram routes 9, 11, and 22. The application, available for free in the App Store or on Google Play, plays a warning tune or vibrates when someone is front of a moving tram while using their phone. Testing will take place until the end of June this year. The system relies on a Bluetooth directional signal sent from the tram. The public can participate in it and send feedback via the online form on the website.

POLITICS: Government should propose election amendment

It should be the government that presents an election amendment to react to the Constitutional Court’s decision concerning the election law, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, Radek Vondráček said after meeting Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. In the Parliament, the legislation should be approved in a routine way, but within shortened deadlines in the Chamber of Deputies, Vondráček said. He wants the bill to be drafted by the Interior Ministry with a regular report. He also wants parties to agree on the process at their meeting on Tuesday.

“We will do our utmost to pass the new law. We simply must do this. We have not ruled out any of the alternatives that are on the table,” Vondráček said.

WEATHER: ‘Beast from the East’ will bring extreme cold

A cold front coming down from the Arctic will bring extreme cold, heavy snow, and strong wind. Night time temperatures could fall to -20 degrees Celsius next week in some parts of the Czech Republic, and highs could reach only -12 degrees. This type of weather system, called a “best from the east” usually only affects northwestern Europe. Snowfall should start over the weekend in the northern part of the country, and deposit up to 10 centimeters even in the lowlands. Meteorologists disagree on how far south in the Czech Republic the cold front will penetrate.

IMMIGRATION: Police find 25 percent more illegal migrants last year

The Czech immigration police uncovered 7,093 illegal migrants last year or almost 25 percent more than a year ago, immigration police chief Milan Majer told journalists. However, the figure was largely influenced by poeple detained for violating anti-epidemic rules, which limited the stay of foreigners over the spread of COVID-19. The data cannot be compared with other years, deputy police president Martin Vondrášek said. The number of the foreigners staying illegally in the Czech Republic has been rising slightly each hear since 2017. However, it was the highest in 2015 when the migrant crisis culminated in Europe.

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SPORTS: Czech hunters, fishers oppose to ban on lead

Czech hunters are opposed to the European Commission–planned ban on the use of lead pellets in hunting, and fishers are against a ban on the use of lead weights in fishing. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) this week recommended a full ban on those lead devices. Representatives of sporting groups say the full ban would have a detrimental effect on shooting and fishing. Currently, the ban on lead is only valid in the surroundings of wetlands. That step was supported by a majority of EU countries, but the Czech Republic opposed it.

FINANCE: The ČNB board left interest rates unchanged

The bank board of the Czech National Bank (ČNB) left interest rates unchanged. The basic interest rate, on which the interest rate on commercial loans is derived, remains at 0.25 percent. According to economists, the bank could start raising rates later in the second half of the year. The board last changed rates last May 7, when it reduced the key interest rate by 0.75 percentage points to 0.25 percent. Earlier, the board cut interest rates twice in March. The aim was to mitigate the economic impact of the spread of coronavirus.

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