Czech weekend news in brief: top stories for April 18, 2021

Controversy surrounds Russian involvement in 2014 explosion, Covid-19 cases on the decline, and more top headlines from this weekend.

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 18.04.2021 09:34 (updated on 18.04.2021)

Czech Republic reports lowest Saturday rise in new Covid-19 cases since September

The Czech Republic reported 1,159 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, the lowest Saturday figure since September 5, according to the latest data from the Czech Health Ministry. The reproduction number R has fallen to 0.71 today and the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients is now the lowest since mid-October.

There have been over 1.6 million Covid-19 cases in the Czech Republic since the epidemic outbreak in March 2020. About 1.5 million have recovered and 28,426 have died. Thirteen deaths have been reported on Saturday for now, which would be the lowest daily death toll since early October. The mortality data usually increases after later update, however.

2014 explosion called "Russian terrorism in the Czech Republic"

Czech opposition parties have called the involvement of Russian intelligence members involvement in a 2014 explosion that killed two "Russian terrorism in the Czech Republic," and have called on PM Andrej Babiš to debate it within the EU and NATO. Civic Democrat leader Petr Fiala said he wants the issue to be discussed by the Chamber of Deputies as its first point on the agenda on Tuesday.

"The PM and the president should debate the issue with our partners in the EU and NATO, and also ask them to support our reaction towards Russia, as it was a terrorist act targeting not only the Czech Republic but also a member state of he EU and NATO," Christian Democrat chairman Marian Jurečka writes.

Russian link to 2014 explosion may affect Dukovany tender

Russia's involvement in the blast in a Czech ammunition depot in 2014, if confirmed, would affect Russian company Rosatom's participation in the Czech tender for the extension of the Dukovany nuclear power plant, Industry Minister Karel Havlíček has told CTK. He did not elaborate on potential consequences, but said more detailed information from Czech security forces will play role in making a decision on inviting bidders to join the tender for the construction of a new nuclear unit in Dukovany.

"These events may naturally influence the Dukovany project. It is a very serious piece of news. Any such act, if confirmed, must clearly have consequences," Havlíček said. Security bodies had previously warned against the involvement of Russian and Chinese bidders in the past.

Czech Social Affairs Minister to propose extension of Covid-19 support through June

Social Affairs Minister Jana Maláčová will propose to the government on Monday that the Antivirus program in support of companies afflicted by lockdown measures be prolonged until end June, and that the bonus for those in Covid-19 quarantine to be paid until the end of June or the end of the year, she said today. Both measures are in force until the end of April for the time being.

Talking to media after meeting President Miloš Zeman and his team of advisers, Maláčová said she will propose the Antivirus prolongation until the end of June in accordance with what was recently agreed upon by the Tripartite, a body made up of representatives from the government, trade unions, and employers that aims to help maintain social harmony.

Schools, sports top targets for easing lockdown measures, says Health Minister

The further reopening of schools remains a priority among the easing of anti-Covid-19 restrictions in the Czech Republic, Health Minister Petr Arenberger said on Saturday. He added that he is also considering softening the restrictions for sports, though this is opposed by epidemiologists.

Definitive priorities for the country's return to everyday life are yet to be set. More information about it might be available at the end of next week, Arenberger told reporters. Amid the closure of all types of schools, elementary schools reopened to the lowest grades' students on Monday, April 12 in reaction to the subsiding Covid-19 epidemic.