Czech morning news in brief: top stories for Nov. 25, 2020

PM wants antigen tests for everyone before Christmas, domestic violence a problem for many in the country, health insurers face huge deficit in 2021. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 25.11.2020 08:22:00 (updated on 25.11.2020) Reading time: 5 minutes

Top news stories for Nov. 25, 2020, compiled by CTK.

Babis wants to offer free COVID antigen tests before Christmas

COVID - Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) wants the Czech state to offer all citizens the chance to get COVID-19 antigen tests for free, seven to ten days before Christmas, he said yesterday at the official opening of the Chief-of-Staff's military command meeting. Babis used the opportunity to thank the military for its key role in tackling the coronavirus epidemic. He said he would call on soldiers again if the blanket antigen testing scheme was launched. The PM said the Health Ministry must request that the government carry out the testing program as soon as possible. "I would be very glad if we managed this challenge by Christmas to enable all citizens to voluntarily undergo free COVID-19 antigen tests a week or ten days before Christmas," Babis said. Health Minister Jan Blatny (ANO) may present his strategy of repeated coronavirus testing of selected groups today. Unlike the commonly used PCR tests, the antigen tests do not have to be evaluated in laboratories and results are available in 15 minutes, but they are less precise.

Domestic violence a serious problem for most people in the country

POLL- A new survey out in conjunction with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, observed on Nov. 25, reports that 85 percent of adult women in the Czech Republic consider domestic violence a serious problem, with about five percent of those polled saying the issue was exaggerated, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM and Focus polling agencies. According to the report, slaps in the face, kicks, forced sex, insults and restricted access to money are considered abuse much more by women than men in the country. The survey mapped responses from those polled as to how serious the violent behavior they experienced was and where they would search for help if their partner was dangerous, sociologist Blanka Nyklova said. Domestic violence is a serious issue for 62 percent of the respondents and substantial for 23 percent, while 10 percent did not know, and 5 percent believed it was exaggerated. Those who consider it a serious or substantial problem were mostly women, people with a university education, younger people and inhabitants of smaller towns.

Public health insurers could face CZK 13 billion deficit in 2021

MONEY - The public health insurance system in the Czech Republic will face a deficit of CZK 13 billion next year and to tackle it, health insurers' financial reserves will have be used like this year, Health Minister Jan Blatny (ANO) said at the Effective Hospitals conference yesterday. Next year, the overall budget of health insurance companies will be almost CZK 400 billion, which is CZK 28 billion more than this year, Blatny said. His predecessor, Roman Prymula, said in connection with the current coronavirus pandemic, that this year cannot be compared with years before in terms of hospitals efficiency. Another former health minister, Adam Vojtech, said this year showed the importance of digitization of healthcare data. Compared with the rest of the world, the Czech Republic has a higher number of hospital beds, which some have criticized as too costly in the past. The current pandemic, nevertheless, showed that these beds are necessary. "We ran a risk a bit. We reached almost the brink of the healthcare system capacity. However, our system is unbelievably robust. I say that none of our neighboring countries could cope with such a [steep] surge [of infections]," Prymula said.

Govt. supports bill to enhance cyber office powers

CYBERSECURITY - The government has approved an amendment to the cybersecurity law to more closely specify the Cyber and Information Security Agency's (NUKIB) powers and transpose the EU cybersecurity act into the Czech law, PM Andrej Babis (ANO) told reporters after a Monday cabinet meeting. Under the amendment, which is yet to be passed by the lower and upper houses of Czech parliament, the NUKIB would be authorized to seek vulnerable spots in publicly accessible parts of cyberspace. The main aim of the amendment is to adopt the Czech law to the demands of current EU cybersecurity legislation, NUKIB spokesman Jiri Taborsky told CTK. "On the basis of this change, the NUKIB will become an internal body to certify cybersecurity and it will, among other functions, supervise the observance of the rules given by the European systems of cybersecurity certification," he said. The European Commission (EC) is expected to set the first such certification systems next year, Taborsky added.

Terrorists may have caused helicopter crash in Sinai - Zeman

POLITICS - The cause of the deadly Nov. 12 Blackhawk helicopter crash in Egypt's Sinai, which killed Czech female staff sergeant Michaela Ticha, may have been no accident, but an attack by Islamist militants, President Milos Zeman said at a meeting of top military commanders yesterday. However, Chief-of-Staff Ales Opata said he had no such information. "At any rate, there is a US military team investigating the incident. We are not able to comment on anything today," he added. The command of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) international mission, of which the helicopter was a part, released a statement after the accident, saying that an investigation has been launched and that a mechanical defect was apparently responsible for the crash. When asked by CTK on what information Zeman based his assumptions, his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said, "It was a logical suspicion stemming from the situation in Sinai."

Defense minister against military budget cuts

MILITARY - Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar (ANO) told an assembly of top military commanders yesterday that the cuts connected with the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 seriously impaired the Czech military's capability to defend the state against an external attack and they must not make the same mistake again. Metnar warned of the dispute over the budget bill, which allocates CZK 85.4 billion to the defense budget. At the meeting Chief-of-Staff Ales Opata said that, in light of the pandemic, it is clear that the military is crucial for the defense of country on every level, not only against an enemy. Thus, the modernization of the military must carry on, he added. However, the Communists, who keep the minority government comprised of PM Andrej Babis's ANO and the Social Democrats afloat, have said their support for the bill is contingent on a defense budget cut of CZK 10 billion. Metnar thanked the troops for their work during the coronavirus crisis, calling their efforts admirable. "However, the crisis is not yet over. We also do not know whether it will repeat and whether other, perhaps even worse, pandemics may come," he added. Aid in emergency situations is a vital part of the soldiers' work, Metnar said. However, defense against external attacks on the state, its allies and values is the main task of the military, Metnar said. Currently, the biggest modernization in Czech military history is taking place, and at the same time, there have been attempts to cast doubts on the defense budget, Opata said.

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