Czech news in brief for January 18: Thursday's top headlines

Freezing drizzle complicates morning traffic across Czechia, Czech films head to Berlinale, and the postal voting debate rages on. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 18.01.2024 08:52:00 (updated on 18.01.2024) Reading time: 4 minutes

Environment Noticeable improvement in Czech air quality

The Czech Republic experienced a notable improvement in air quality last year, with concentrations of pollutants reaching the lowest levels in a decade, according to a preliminary assessment by the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ). For the first time, immission limits for fine dust particles PM10 and PM2.5 were not exceeded, alongside continued adherence to limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).

Favorable meteorological conditions, particularly during the winter, contributed to the positive trend. Ground-level ozone (O3) remained an exception, with six percent of stations recording exceeding immission limits in 2023.

Economy Czech beer prices increase by 10 percent

The cost of a pint of 12-degree beer in Czech establishments has risen by ten percent year-on-year in mid-January, averaging CZK 57.80m according to Dotykačka, which monitors data from cash register systems, told journalists today. The increase, exceeding two crowns between December and January, contrasts with marginal changes seen a year ago.

Customers face a notable uptick in beer prices, reflecting economic factors impacting the hospitality sector. The surge raises concerns among consumers and businesses alike, highlighting ongoing challenges in the pricing dynamics of a cultural staple in the Czech Republic.

Capital Prague finalizes contract for Václavák tram

The Prague Transport Company (DPP) finalized a contract with Eurovia CS for the construction of a new tram line in the upper section of Wenceslas Square. The builder is currently in the process of preparing required documents, pending approval from relevant authorities. Simultaneously, DPP has initiated a tender to select a company for construction supervision.

The upcoming tram line project aims to enhance public transportation infrastructure in the heart of Prague, contributing to improved connectivity and convenience. The contract signifies a significant step forward in the city's ongoing efforts to enhance its public transit network.

Politics Postal voting debate to continue this morning

The Czech Chamber of Deputies adjourned an overnight session debating a government bill to introduce postal voting for Czechs living abroad. The opposition's filibuster led to the delay, with the debate resuming at 9 a.m. Far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy Tomio Okamura promised an extended speech. Clashes between the opposition and the coalition centered on the constitutional aspects of postal voting.

The government argues for protecting the privacy of the vote, while the opposition insists on in-person voting at polling stations. The proposed amendment, applicable to presidential, parliamentary, and European elections, aims to enable postal voting for Czechs abroad from 2025, citing convenience for those distant from embassies.

weather Freezing drizzle complicates morning commute

Road workers in Prague have issued warnings about icy conditions, deploying equipment to tackle the situation. Public transport passengers, especially bus users, should anticipate delays due to the risk of sliding. Early evening reports suggest calm road conditions in the capital, with several accidents, mostly minor.

Prague's Technical Administration of Communications confirms the glacier warning, urging caution and limiting outdoor movement. The Prague Integrated Transport advises monitoring real-time connections, anticipating potential delays. Meteorologists predict widespread ice formation in the Czech Republic, excluding the southeast, with snow in northern Bohemia. Warmer temperatures are expected, reaching nine degrees during the day on Thursday.

health Czechs used 200 kg of medical cannabis last year

Czech Republic, doctors prescribed nearly 210 kilograms of medicinal cannabis to around 8,000 patients last year, marking a significant increase from five years ago. The State Agency for Cannabis for Medicinal Use revealed the surge, with six companies authorized for production and one pending approval. Zenplanto, a local company, showcased its cultivation facility with a 1,000-kilogram capacity, planning to export.

Despite concerns over prescription complications, medicinal cannabis in the Czech Republic is covered by public health insurance, a rarity in Europe. The push for cannabis legalization for recreational use is underway, with potential economic and legal implications.

Health Surge in severe Covid cases reported in Czechia

Severe Covid-19 cases have surged in Czech hospitals, signaling a rising trend in respiratory illnesses. The Ministry of Health anticipates a twofold increase in patients within the next two weeks, warning of substantial underreporting. Deputy Minister of Health Josef Pavlovic notes the growing number of admissions and warns of a deteriorating epidemiological situation.

From October to this week, around 9,000 people were hospitalized with Covid-19. Despite effective antiviral treatments, hospitals report severe cases, including fatalities, particularly among unvaccinated individuals. Vaccination is urged for individuals over 60 and those with chronic conditions to prevent severe outcomes.

Culture Czech films to screen at Berlinale Film Festival

The Berlinale Film Festival will showcase Redakce by Ukrainian director Roman Bondarchuk, a co-production involving Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany. Czech filmmaker Klára Tasovská's documentary, I'm Not Everything I Want to Be, focusing on photographer Libuša Jarcovjáková, will also be presented. Tasovská's film, co-produced by Slovakia and Austria, explores marginalized communities in socialist Czechoslovakia.

Redakce, addressing corruption and post-Soviet reality, was completed during the Russian invasion. The Berlinale, running from Feb. 15 to 25, will include the films in the Panorama and Forum sections, with additional Czech and Slovak representation in the Co-Production Market.

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