Czech news in brief for January 8: Monday's top headlines

Czech gas consumption hits lowest level since 1994, Interest rates on Czech savings accounts expected to decline, and more Monday headlines. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 08.01.2024 08:30:00 (updated on 08.01.2024) Reading time: 6 minutes

health Doctors aim to screen all long-term smokers for lung cancer

Martina Koziar Vašáková, head of the Pneumology Clinic at Charles University and Thomayer University hospitals, revealed that doctors in Czechia plan to screen all long-term smokers for lung cancer risk. Since January 2022, 10,000 smokers have been screened, with three out of 10 showing abnormalities. Lung cancer claims 5,500 lives annually in Czechia, with 6,000-7,000 new diagnoses each year.

Vašáková urges people to get tested, as early detection increases the chances of successful treatment. The number of people aged 55 to 74 years who could be screened in Czechia is estimated at around half a million. 

Narcotics Study: One in five Czechs try hard drugs for 'escapism'

A survey for the Czech "Shortcuts" prevention campaign reported that 20 percent of Czechs have tried hard drugs, often as a form of escapism or for recreation. Eighty percent of respondents understood drug use, and as many as one-third approved of it. Experts estimate that 46,500 people in the Czech Republic are at risk for drug use, with methamphetamine being the most commonly used. 

In 2022, 53 people died from drug overdose, and 150 deaths were linked to drug use. Director of the National Drug Control Center Jakub Frydrych expressed concern over the 100-percent increase in drug-related crimes in the past decade, citing social and media acceptance as a contributing factor.

TECHNOLOGY Czech uni experts develop AI gun-detection software

Experts at the Czech Technical University (ČVUT) have unveiled an AI-driven gunfire detection system for military and civilian use, including schools and urban areas. Developed by the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, ČVUT says that the technology boasts a 99-percent accuracy in discerning gunshots from other sounds. Upon detecting gunfire, the system autonomously transmits the event's details and location to a remote server. 

Within seconds, the server assesses weapon type and caliber without human intervention. Jan Holub, head of the department of theoretical informatics at ČVUT, highlighted the technology's uniqueness validated by scientific publications.

CHRISTMAS PARTY DEBACLE Labor minister: Party members will not vote on my resignation

At a press conference today, Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) leader Marian Jurečka said he will not ask KDU-ČSL members at a party conference to vote on his potential resignation. Jurečka, also the interior minister, has recently come under strong public fire for continuing an Interior Ministry Christmas party on the afternoon of Prague’s Dec. 21 shooting (despite having been aware of it). 

He explained that none of the government coalition partners have suggested his resignation and expects the situation to be discussed by the coalition parties' leaders. Jurečka says he has apologized for misjudging the situation and believes he has sufficiently explained the matter.

STRIKE ACTION German farmer protests block some border crossings with Czechia

According to South Bohemian police spokeswoman Štěpánka Schwarzová, the border crossing between Strážný and Philippsreut in the town of Prachatice, which was previously blocked by protesting farmers on the German side, is now passable again. Truck convoys have been seen on the Czech side, with possible complications and delays still expected for drivers crossing into Germany. 

Police have also reported that the Czech border crossings at Boží Dar in the Karlovy Vary region and Vejprty in the Ústí nad Labem region near Chomutov are currently closed due to blockades by protesting German farmers. They are protesting against the German government's planned cuts in agriculture.

crime Woman sentenced for helping send anti-Semitic texts

The Prague Municipal Court has today approved a plea bargain in which Ivana Timová, 30, is given an 18-month suspended sentence and 2.5-year probation for assisting her husband Pavel Rus in spreading threatening anti-Semitic messages. Rus, a 45-year-old IT specialist, faces up to 15 years in prison for supporting terrorism and other crimes.

According to the public prosecutor, Rus began sending electronic messages with texts and images to institutions in April 2021, accusing a supposed criminal group of being of Jewish origin and claiming the involvement of "Jewish prosecutors." She also gave Rus access to her bank account, thanks to which he set up a website where all texts, images, and collages with hateful, anti-Semitic, and threatening content were available.

Travel German train strike to affect Czechia this week

The German train drivers' union, GDL, has declared a strike in passenger transport from Wednesday to Friday next week, escalating the wage dispute with Deutsche Bahn (DB) and other rail companies. The strike will impact the connection with the Czech Republic, affecting EuroCity trains and the Cheb-Marktredwitz cross-border route.

The strike, demanding a reduction in working hours from 38 to 35 hours a week with full pay, will commence at 2 a.m. on Wednesday for passengers and Tuesday at 6 p.m. for freight. GDL had already organized strikes in November and December.

Popoulation Czech birth rate hits record low

In the Czech Republic, the birth rate has hit record lows, with data from major hospitals indicating a nine percent decrease in newborns compared to the previous year. This marks the second consecutive year of such decline, with projections suggesting the birth rate will be the weakest in thirty years, hovering around 80,000 annually.

Exact statistics will be released in spring, but preliminary data shows around 92,000 births in 2023, the lowest in two decades. Larger hospitals in Prague experienced a milder decline, potentially due to delayed family planning. Demographers attribute the drop to housing market challenges and pandemic-related delays. The country experienced a natural population decline of 13,000 in the first three quarters of 2023.

Crime Prague police uncover skeletal remains in Jinonice

Police in Prague, during an extensive search in Prague 5, discovered human bones in a forest park. The search, which involved the use of pickaxes, shovels, and machetes, relates to an ongoing investigation. Police spokesman Richard Hrdina stated that skeletal remains were found, but it is yet to be confirmed if they are linked to the ongoing investigation.

The search was conducted in the wooded area on the outskirts of Prague's Jinonice neighborhood, and the presence of criminal investigators from Prague's 1st department, known for investigating serious violent crimes, suggests a potential connection to a violent crime. The details of the case and the identity of the victim have not been disclosed due to the ongoing investigation.

Economy Interest rates on Czech savings accounts expected to decline

Several Czech banks have announced reductions in interest rates on savings accounts due to a drop in the interest rates from the Czech National Bank, reports Česká spořitelna plans to reduce its base rate for savings accounts from five percent to 3.5 percent, effective from January 26.

Komerční banka will reduce the basic interest rate for savings accounts from five to two percent starting in February, with the bonus rate yet to be announced. J&T Banka is also expected to implement rate reductions in February. Other banks are considering similar adjustments in response to the central bank's expected gradual reduction of the prime rate throughout the year.

Legal Czech court to discuss proposal revoke pension amendment

The Czech Constitutional Court, under President Josef Baxa, is set to publicly discuss a proposal by 71 members of the opposition ANO movement to revoke a government amendment that shortened the extraordinary June valorization of pensions in 2023. The proposal argues that the retroactive reduction violated pensioners' legitimate expectations and the constitutional principle of legal certainty.

The government, aiming to limit future pension expenditures, maintains that quick action was necessary to prevent economic damage. The court has called witnesses, including the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, and requested expert opinions. A decision will not be made immediately.

Culture Moravian ceremonial dance makes list of Czech cultural assets

The Zaváďka ceremonial dance, a highlight of celebrations in the Hanácké Slovácko area in southern Moravia, has been added to the List of Intangible Assets of Traditional Folk Culture in the Czech Republic. The list, maintained by the Culture Ministry, now contains a total of 33 items.

Zaváďka, one of the best-documented dances in Moravia, has retained its traditional form and is still performed in approximately 20 villages. Each village has its unique variation, but a common feature is the special Zaváďka step danced by both male and female participants in traditional costumes.

Protest Locals protest planned Bohemian nuclear waste repository

Residents in West Bohemia marched against a planned deep nuclear waste repository near the Sumava mountain range. The 10-kilometer protest, now in its twenty-first iteration, gathered around 360 participants in Chanovice. The repository, slated for operation by 2050, has faced opposition from affected municipalities.

A petition, rejecting the project and demanding municipal consent for the site selection, garnered around 500 signatures. The bill for the repository, requiring parliamentary approval, was returned by the Senate in December. Despite local resistance, a vote on the bill is scheduled for mid-January.

Would you like us to write about your business? Find out more