Czech weekend news roundup: December 11–12, 2021

Large protests held in Prague against anti-Covid measures, National Bank member warns of higher inflation, Peace Light of Bethlehem reaches Czech Republic. Staff

Written by Staff Published on 11.12.2021 11:44:00 (updated on 13.12.2021) Reading time: 10 minutes

December 12, 2021

15:30 Large protests held in Prague against Covid measures

Opponents of the government’s Covid measures gathered at a large rally in Prague’s Wenceslas Square today to protest against compulsory Covid vaccination and a perceived violation of personal freedoms through what they describe as unconstitutional restrictions. Police estimated the number at the rally to be around 4,000. The rally was organized by the Open Czechia organization, and moved from Wenceslas Square across the city center to Prague Castle. The demonstration featured Communist-era protest songs; participants did not observe social distancing or wear face masks. The organizers said they are not against voluntary vaccination, but against the notion of compulsory vaccination tabled by the government. The group plans to stage its next protest in Prague’s Old Town Square on New Year’s Eve, and it will also distribute fish soup in the same location on December 20.

Economy Inflation to exceed 7% in January

A member of the board of the Czech National Bank has predicted that inflation will exceed 7% in January, as an optimistic estimate. Tomáš Holub also said, however, that inflation will definitely not get as high as 10%. Inflation rose to 6% in November, but the increase was mitigated in part by the government’s waiver on VAT for energy. Holub also predicted that the base interest rate could increase to as much as 4% next spring. He said January is a key month when companies and sole traders make new price lists after the end of the previous year. “Now it is almost certain that inflation will exceed 7%. I don’t even dare to estimate how high it will go above the 7% mark,” Holub said.

15:00 Incoming government to accept minimum wage increase

The incoming Czech administration led by Petr Fiala will leave intact the outgoing cabinet’s decision to raise the minimum wage by CZK 1,000 per month to CZK 16,200 as of January. Andrej Babiš’s cabinet made the decision in early November, after losing the October election to the five-party opposition coalition. Speaking to Czech Television, incoming Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marin Jurečka said he does not think the new government will want to change this. Petr Fiala has meanwhile said the new regime cannot completely change everything the old government started as soon as it takes power, as this would cause chaos for employees and employers.

Deliveries Czech Post faces processing problems for non-EU packages

Czech Post is seeing a significant build-up of packages from non-EU states due to recipients not filling out forms required by the postal service. Packages from non-EU countries must go through customs clearance and are subject to VAT; significantly, these rules now also apply to the United Kingdom as a result of Brexit. Recipients of each package must fill out an electronic declaration form, but many are failing to do so, leading to a significant build-up of parcels in Czech Post warehouses. As of October 1, VAT is also assessed for small packages, going up to €150. There is a €45 cap for the exemption of gift items from VAT, but these items must still go through customs clearance.


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13:00 Further large interest rate hike unlikely, says National Bank chief

The Governor of the Czech National Bank, Jiří Rusnok, said in an interview with MF Dnes that the bank is unlikely to raise borrowing costs by similarly large amounts to those seen in the second half of this year. The bank has sought to tighten up its monetary policy to counter spiraling inflation rates, introducing cumulative rate hikes of 2.5% in the last six months. Rusnok said he expects bank decision-makers to debate raising rates by 0.25% or 0.5% on December 22, much less than the previous hike of 1.25%.

12:00 Pirate Party leader criticizes President’s minister rejection

Czech Pirate Party leader Ivan Bartoš dismissed President Miloš Zeman’s reasons for refusing to appoint fellow Pirate Jan Lipavský as Foreign Minister as “completely fictional.” Bartoš said he still expects the President to appoint the new government as a whole, although outgoing Minister of Finance Alena Schillerová said the new coalition’s only chance is to establish a cabinet without Lipavský. Bartoš suggested a lawsuit will be initiated if Zeman refuses to accept incoming Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s ministerial nominations, but did not specify the details. Zeman’s stated reasons for rejecting Lipavský are the Pirate candidate’s supposedly low qualifications in foreign affairs and his reserved stance towards Israel and the Visegrád Four.

Missing person British police search for missing Czech woman

Police in Great Britain are searching for a 32-year-old Czech woman who went missing in London two weeks ago. Petra Srncová was last seen leaving work to head home in the UK capital. The police as well as local politicians have appealed to the public for any information about the missing person, who works as a nursing assistant in the Evelina London Children’s Hospital. The Czech News Agency has reported that British police have already arrested a man in connection with the disappearance.

11:30 Ice expected in the Czech Republic tonight

Czech meteorologists are warning of ice forming on roads in most of Bohemia and parts of South Moravia tonight and tomorrow morning. Rainfall is expected, expected to freeze in cold night temperatures. The greatest risk of ice will be in north and north-east Bohemia as well as in the mountains. In the Jizera Mountains in north Bohemia, temperatures this morning were as cold as -13 degrees Celsius. The Czech Hydrometerological Institute has put in place a warning for ice valid from 17:00 on Sunday to 10:00 on Monday, applying to the whole of Bohemia with the exception of lowlands in the west and the center of the region. In South Moravia, the warning concerns areas in the Vysočina and Pardubice regions.

08:00 Peace Light of Bethlehem taken over by Czech Scouts

Members of the Czech Scouts are receiving the traditional Peace Light of Bethlehem from their Austrian counterparts on the border of the two countries near Břeclav today. Normally, Scouts travel to Austria to retrieve the flame ignited in Bethlehem, but as a result of the Covid pandemic it will instead be handed over at the border. The light will then be taken to Brno Cathedral later today. The flame will then be distributed throughout the Czech Republic by Scouts traveling in select trains; the full schedule of the light’s journey can be found on the “Bethlehem Light” website.

December 11, 2021

Crime Slovakia has probable methanol poisoning case

Slovak police are investigating the death of a man in whom methanol and toxic substances were discovered in an autopsy, warning the public against dangerous illegal alcohol products. “We urgently appeal to citizens who have bought alcohol of what may be an illegal origin to reconsider its consumption,” the Lučenec police said in a statement. Police suspect an illegal alcohol facility is operating in the region, resulting in products containing dangerous substances such as methanol. This is not the first example of the dangers of illegal alcohol production in the region; bootleggers distributing deadly alcohol in the Czech Republic and Poland in 2012 and 2013 were sentenced to life if prison. Drinks containing methanol can cause blindness, inflammation of the pancreas and death.

17:00 Czech Olympic snowboard champion suffers horror accident

Czech Olympic champion Eva Samková, 28, suffered a nightmare accidence during the snowboard World Cup in Montafon, Austria. Samková broke both ankles in a sudden fall and had to have immediate surgery. Her team hopes to make more news of her condition public at the beginning of the week. Samková was taking part in a team competition in which the Czech representatives won a silver medal; Samková suffered her injuries in the final maneuver of the race. The accident may make her participation in the forthcoming Beijing Winter Olympics impossible. Samková won a gold medal for the Czech Republic at the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

Politics Fiala will not change ministerial candidates

Incoming Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said in an interview published today that he has no intention of changing his list of ministerial nominees and expects the new Czech government to be finalized next week. Fiala said he was not surprised by President Miloš Zeman’s rejection of the proposed Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský, but that the incoming coalition is ready to challenge the President. Fiala noted that the Czech Republic is a parliamentary democracy and not a presidential system. The next steps to ensure the desired ministers take up their positions will be presented on Monday, Fiala said.

16:05 Czech Republic takes home bronze in floorball World Cup

The Czech national floorball team beat Switzerland 4-3 in the World Cup held in Helsinki, Finland, to take home the third place position in the tournament. The achievement is the third bronze won by the Czechs in the floorball world cup, with the national team also having won a silver in 2004. A tense game was decided in added time with a goal from the Czech team. The Czechs lost in the semi finals to host nation Finland on Friday night, with Finland playing Sweden for the trophy this evening.

Covid measures Head of police trade union unhappy with mandatory vaccination

The head of the Czech Independent Police Trade Union Tomáš Machovič has criticized the government’s decision to make Covid vaccines mandatory for health workers, soldiers, firefighters and police officers from March 2022. Machovič said he believes neither the current nor the future government have clear plans about the degree, and that the police union will lobby to have it canceled. It remains unclear how the decree will be enforced, and what penalties those who still refuse to get vaccinated could face. The incoming Health Minister Vlastimil Válek has said the decree brought in by the outgoing government will be amended.

Economy Czech Republic retains Fitch credit rating

International agency Fitch Ratings has again given the Czech Republic a credit rating of AA-, meaning the country’s rating has remained stable despite the effects of the pandemic. The agency warns, though, that the incoming government will introduce austerity measures, and Fitch has downgraded its estimate for the Czech Republic’s economic growth this year. Still, the agency reduced its estimate of the Czech deficit to 4.1% of GDP, compared to the previously predicted 5%.

Fitch warned, though, that the Czech deficit will remain higher in the coming years than the average of other countries in the same credit category. The agency assesses a country’s credit rating based on the likelihood that investors will receive proper loan repayments. The rating has a significant effect of investors’ willingness to lend to the state or another entity in the country.

Technology Czech tech giant Avast to acquire Evernym

Avast, a Czech leader in digital security and privacy software, has announced the acquisition of Evernym, a U.S. company focusing on the development of innovative products using decentralized digital credentials, leading to a safer online experience. The company provides customers with control over their online presence by keeping their personal details out of centralized databases, and was awarded “Technology Pioneer 2021” by the World Economic Forum.

Ondřej Vlček, Avast CEO, noted that trust in online safety has been compromised due to a lack of adequate provisions for people to prove who they are online. The acquisition of Evernym will aim to enhance Avast’s capabilities in the sphere of online data protection. The deal is expected to close this month, with products using Evernym technology to become available in 2022.

Pandemic Czech mental health deteriorates during Covid

New data suggests demand for psychological counselling is on the rise in the Czech Republic, with a spike in interest during the pandemic leading many to turn to online counseling as an alternative to in-person sessions.

The Covid crisis has led to particular increases in the number of people looking to find answers to domestic issues: demand for partner therapy has increased by 16% while therapy for alcoholism has risen by 14%. The average price for a counseling session has also changed due to increased demand: in Prague, a single session has risen to CZK 1,000 on average. 

New Arrival Prague Zoo welcomes Cooper the wombat

The Darwin’s Crater exhibition at Prague Zoo, focusing on species from Australia and Tasmania, has a new resident. Cooper the wombat has arrived at the zoo, remaining in quarantine for now until visitors finally get the chance to see him around January 10.

Cooper’s arrival will certainly heat up the competition for cutest animal at the zoo. Wombats are a furry species whose closest relative is the koala, and people have been asking Prague Zoo authorities for years whether wombats would ever arrive. Cooper came to the zoo from Hanover, Germany, where he was born last July as the first offspring of the zoo’s breeding pair. Cooper reportedly enjoys being active after lunch, exploring his enclosure after sampling favorite foods such as sweet potatoes, corn, beetroot, celery and cereals. Zoologists hope that Cooper will be joined by a female companion in the not-too-distant future, with discussions underway for the import of a second wombat from Tasmania itself.

Czech nature Scientists in Most discover large spider species

Scientists from the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústi nad Labem and from Charles University in Prague have discovered several rare species of insects and arachnids in the Most Region in locations re-cultivated after the end of coal mining. One of their major discoveries was a large species of spider.

Insects and other invertebrates were caught by scientists in so-called falling traps: containers with smooth plastic walls that stop invertebrates from climbing back out, fitted with a net to prevent the accidental capture of vertebrates. As well as the rare large species of spider found in only a handful of Czech locations, researchers also found a special species of beetle unique to the area.

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