Czech morning news in brief: top stories for Jan. 20, 2021

Merkel-Babiš talks outline plan for commuters, top Czech politician resigns, and a Prague icon gains monumental recognition.

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 20.01.2021 09:34 (updated on 20.01.2021)

POLITICS: Merkel-Babiš talks focus on commuters, Kalousek resigns

Czech PM Andrej Babiš and German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed in a phone call Tuesday that closing the Czech-German border would present complications for cross-border commuters. Babiš said that a solution may be to require two COVID tests a week, financed by Czechia and Germany, respectively. The Czech Foreign Ministry said it welcomed the possibility. Since Monday, Saxony, which borders on Czechia, has required one negative COVID test a week from Czech commuters.

In other political news, chairman of TOP 09 deputies and former Minister of Finance Miroslav Kalousek resigned yesterday. One of the most prominent Czech politicians of recent times made the announcement at the beginning of Tuesday's parliamentary session. Kalousek expects to continue working in TOP 09, where he will act as advisor and mentor.

Read more Coronavirus news here.

REAL ESTATE: Volume of mortgages rose by record numbers last year

The volume of mortgages provided in the Czech Republic last year rose by 40 percent to a record CZK 254 billion. The average interest rate fell to 2.2 percent, according to statistics from the Hypoindex, published by Fincentrum & Swiss Life Select. The coronavirus pandemic helped bring the average mortgage rate back below 2 percent, stopping at 1.96 percent at the end of the year, according to the Hypoindex which also indicated that the average mortgage increased by CZK 365,646 in the last 12 months. Since November 2016, when it settled above CZK 2 million, it has increased by more than CZK 900,000 crowns, or more than 30 percent, in four years.

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TRAVEL: Airline ticket sales down 85 percent last year in Czech Republic

Coronavirus travel restrictions hit air traffic hard last year. Interest in air tickets fell by more than 85 percent year on year. During the crisis, a large number of flights were canceled, while some passengers are still waiting for refunds. Consumer behavior is also changing, with passengers waiting until the last moment to purchase tickets, depending on the development of the situation. Sellers say they expect the market to recover, and travel conditions are likely to be affected by coronavirus vaccination.

Read more Travel news here.

CULTURE: Prague's Podolí swimming pool named a cultural monument

The swimming stadium in Prague's Podolí has become a cultural monument. The decision was made at the end of last year by the Ministry of Culture. According to the website of the National Monuments Institute, it has been protected as a monument since Dec. 10. The work of architect Richard Podzemný was created on the site of a former cement plant and has served the inhabitants and visitors of the capital for more than 55 years. The official Spartakiad swimming competitions officially started operating at the stadium in June 1965; Princess Diana visited in 1991.

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REGIONS: Zlín creates candle chain in honor of Jan Palach

A 700-meter-long chain of candles was created in the center of Zlín on Jan. 19 to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of Jan Palach's death. Candles were arranged in meters at intervals on a slope below the Tomáš Baťa Memorial. This year, for the fifth year, the event was organized by the Živý Zlín cultural agency. Measures against the coronavirus epidemic did not allow the event to be organized as in previous years, but it was important to continue the tradition the group told ČTK. Palach's act of self-immolation was a protest against the Russian Invasion of 1968.