Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Jan. 23–27, 2023.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 23.01.2023 09:46:00 (updated on 27.01.2023) Reading time: 17 minutes

Jan. 27, 2023

HEALTH Covid-19 cases rise by 15 percent in Czechia

Data from the Ministry of Health shows that the number of newly recorded Covid-19 cases in the past week has jumped by 15 percent. This comes despite a decrease in the number of tests.

The number of those infected now stands at 1,971. Hospitalizations and deaths have, however, declined in the past week. There were one-third fewer deaths in the most recent seven days (18) compared with the prior week. Hospitalizations declined by 16 percent.

The number of registered Covid-19 cases has been on a broad decline since early October.

WEATHER Ice warning issued across Czechia amid freezing temperatures

The Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ) has issued a warning about ice forming across much of the country on Friday night, ČTK writes.

The ČHMÚ writes that “light snowfall or drizzle,” combined with freezing outside temperatures overnight, can lead to dangerous conditions.

In the capital, temperatures Friday night are expected to dip to minus 1 degrees Celsius with light snowfall forecast. Other parts of the country, such as Brno and Karlovy Vary, will record similar temperatures. 

Temperatures will stay at, or below, freezing in Prague on Sunday, with a minimum temperature of minus 6 degrees Celsius forecast on Sunday morning.

ELECTION 2023 Czech voters go to polls to decide next president

Today marks the first day of the second round of the presidential election, with polling stations also open tomorrow. Postal voting for Czechs living abroad opened earlier this week. 

Polling stations are open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

In the first round of the election, former army general Petr Pavel accrued 1.98 million votes – just 23,000 more than former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. 

Turnout is expected to be high. In the first round of the election, about 68 percent of eligible adults turned out to vote.

Pavel is the strong favorite to emerge victorious by the end of the weekend, with one pollster predicting him to receive about 58 percent of the vote. Bookmakers also put him as the likely winner, with ever-shortening odds.

ELECTION 2023 Pavel and Babiš face off in final televised debate

Presidential candidates Petr Pavel and Andrej Babiš took part in one final televised presidential debate before the start of the presidential election’s second round.

The discussion was “restrained” according to ČTK, with both candidates agreeing that it was right to show the public both men could “talk normally with one another.”

FEATURED EMPLOYERS

Both Pavel and Babiš agreed that students in the country should not be charged university fees. They also voiced their support for same-sex marriage.

On the topic of sending arms to Ukraine, Pavel was fully supportive. He said “definitely yes, because the opposite means letting Ukraine fall and trampling the principles on which our democracy stands.” Babiš issued a more lukewarm response, saying that he was a supporter of peace and would coordinate actions based on NATO protocol.

SPORT Czech tennis duo make Australian Open final

Czech tennis players Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková have made it to the final of the Australian Open in the women’s doubles category.

The pair, who are the defending champions, beat the Ukrainian-Romanian team of Marta Kostyuk and Elena-Gabriela Ruse in straight sets (6:2, 6:2).

In the final – starting at about 9.30 a.m. Sunday (Czech time) – Krejčíková and Siniaková will face Japanese duo Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, seeded 10th in the tournament.

The Czech team is currently ranked number one in the world in women’s doubles.

Jan. 26, 2023

CRIME Prague police appeal to public after metro stabbing

Prague police are continuing to search for witnesses after a stabbing on the capital’s metro system yesterday, leading to the arrest of a 58-year-old male, iDnes writes.

The incident occurred around midday during a metro journey on Prague’s C (red) line. The aggressor had been engaged in a verbal argument with a 37-year-old male prior to the disagreement becoming physical.

The police need eyewitnesses because CCTV cameras only capture the attacker leaving the metro. The aggressor threw the 37-year-old out of the metro at Střížkov metro station. No incriminating footage of the attacker stabbing his victim exists.  

The attacker faces up to 18 years in jail for attempted murder. 

ELECTION 2023 Fake e-mail circulates claiming that Pavel has died

An e-mail thought to originate from Russia has today been circulating in the Czech cybersphere claiming that presidential candidate Petr Pavel has died.

It contains a fabricated statement from his press secretary Eva Hromádková saying Pavel died from “probable heart failure.” Pavel has, unsurprisingly, denied the claims. 

The e-mail links to a website that has a similar web address to the official campaign website of Pavel, but – in an attempt to mislead people – is subtly different.

Rival Andrej Babiš, who earlier suspended his in-person campaign due to a death threat, came out supporting Pavel, writing on Twitter: “It's disgusting and I'm sorry that someone would stoop to something like this."

POLITICS Babiš marketing manager expelled from advertising association

The chief marketing strategist of presidential candidate Andrej Babiš has been dismissed from a national association of advertising professionals, ČTK reports.

Marek Prchal, who had been on Babiš’s team during his 2017 general election victory, is accused of stoking fear and contributing to an “unethical” campaign.

"Using marketing and advertisement blatantly and expediently to spread lies and fear and split society is not just amoral, but also dangerous for the future development of this branch," said chairman of the Art Directors Club of the Czech Republic David Suda.

ELECTION 2023 Pavel's odds of winning election strengthen significantly

Betting odds of former army general Petr Pavel to win the 2023 presidential election have shortened significantly since last week, meaning that bookmakers view his chances as more favorable.

An analysis by Novinky.cz of different bookmakers’ odds of who will win the election – voting for which takes place tomorrow – shows Pavel’s odds at around 1.05:1. Last week, his odds were longer, at about 1.2:1.

His rival, former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, has experienced the opposite. His chances of winning are perceived by bookmakers as lower than last week. He is now at about 10:1 to win the election – a significant drifting from 5:1 last week.

AUTOMOTIVE Number of electric-charging stations in Czechia rises sharply

“Hundreds” of new charging stations for electric vehicles were installed across the Czechia in 2022, ČTK reports, symbolizing the country’s growing usage of electromobility.

The increased registration of electric passenger cars year on year – by over 30 percent, to 14,316 new electric cars – shows that people are today more likely to use this greener form of transport.

"This year, we are once again targeting a more than 20 percent increase in consumption [of electric vehicles] said the electromobility director of ČEZ, Czechia’s largest utility company.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS Pavel gives Babiš framed copy of NATO Article 5

Both Czech presidential candidates, retired general Petr Pavel and former prime minister Andrej Babiš want to connect an increasingly divided Czech society, they said in an election debate on CNN Prima News television station Wednesday evening. Both candidates discussed their former membership in the Czechoslovak Communist Party as well as speaking about faith, their past, and security.

Both candidates said if they were elected they'd visit Kyiv. Pavel said people may decide whether to have a president who represented lies and distortion of facts or a president who respected values like honor, dignity, and responsibility. He also gave his opponent a framed copy of the North Atlantic Treaty Article 5 on collective defense.

Babiš denied that he had been a collaborator of the communist secret police StB, which is stated in archive documents.

Oscars Three Czechs vying for Academy Awards

Three Czechs have a chance to win an Oscar, Seznam Zprávy reports. They are Viktor Müller as special effects specialist, sound engineer Viktor Prášil and make-up artist Linda Eisenhamerová. All of them worked on the movie “All Quiet on the Western Front.”

The German-U.S. co-production, which was shot in Czechia, received nine Oscar nominations. The winners will be announced on March 12 in a Hollywood ceremony.

Defense EU refunds Czechia for Ukraine military aid

The EU gave the Czech Ministry of Defense CZK 155 million (6.5 million euros) in compensation for the military materiel it delivered to Ukraine, the ministry said yesterday in a press release, according to ČTK.

The money comes through the European Peace Facility, which finances EU priorities in the areas of defense and security, including compensation to EU member countries delivering military equipment to Ukraine

economy Government approves another round of 'merciful summer'

The government approved a bill allowing the self-employed, small employers and firms that have debts in social insurance payments to pay them more easily from July to November, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said yesterday. The bill will now go to the lower house of Czech parliament for approval.

The so-called “merciful summer,” as previous rounds of debt cancellations were known, could target hundreds of thousands of individuals and firms totaling a debt of up to 56.7 billion crowns. This would cancel fines and additional costs of up to 18 billion crowns. Additionally, once the unpaid insurance is covered, the social administration will remit the fine and distraint costs.

health State Drug Control Office launches investigation into missing drugs

The State Drug Control Office (SÚKL) launched an investigation into the disappearance of 130,000 packages of prescription drugs worth almost CZK 67 million crowns, iDnes reports.

SÚKL director Irena Storová said the drugs were mostly intended for the treatment of diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure. Since the proceeding are still ongoing, the total number of packages that went missing and their total price "can be double or even higher," Storová added.

Jan. 25, 2023

ELECTION 2023 Pavel and Babiš face off on Russia during presidential debate

Presidential candidates Petr Pavel and Andrej Babiš exchanged verbal blows today in a presidential debate that took place just two days before voting for the second round of the election begins.

During a discussion about Russia, Babiš claimed that he “would never” negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin and that he had never visited the Russian embassy in Prague, Novinky.cz reports.

Pavel tarnished these claims, calling Babiš a liar and citing existing photographs disapproving his claim. 

On the topic of war, Babiš refuted claims that he called Pavel a “warmonger.” Both candidates – perhaps surprisingly – agreed that Putin should appear before a war tribunal.

POLITICS Fiala praises German decision to send tanks to Ukraine

Germany’s decision today to send so-called Leopard military tanks to Ukraine has been welcomed by Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, ČT24 writes.

The country announced it would send 14 tanks to Ukraine. Earlier on, it agreed to send refurbished military tanks to both Czechia and Slovakia in return for those countries gifting their own tanks to Ukraine.

Fiala, who visited Berlin Tuesday, commended Germany’s move and said “Chancellor [Olaf] Scholz and I agreed that the deliveries for Czechia will be carried out as planned.” Fiala also said that the EU would continue its coordinated help of Ukraine.

SPORT Czech tennis player defeated in women's Australian Open quarterfinals

Czech female tennis player Karolína Plíšková dropped out of the Australian Open quarterfinals earlier today after losing to Pole Magda Linette in straight sets.

Plíšková, who is the fourth-ranked Czech female tennis player and ranked 31 in the world, made it to the semifinals of the same tournament in 2019. In 2017 she was ranked number one in the world.

"I'm very disappointed with the result…my opponent made it very difficult for me,” ČTK quotes Plíšková as saying.

EVENT Opponents of Czech president lift boxer shorts in protest

Several critics of President Miloš Zeman hoisted red boxer shorts during a meeting Tuesday with his Polish counterpart in the Hradec Králové region.

"For several years, red boxers shorts have been a symbol of disagreement with the policy pursued by Zeman, and we fundamentally disagree with it,” ČTK reports a member of the Green Party Michal Kudrnáč as saying.

Banners were also displayed with anti-Zeman words. 

“We disagree with the way he has divided the society, dragged us into moral decay, [and] supported [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” Kudrnáč added.

Red boxer shorts have been used on multiple occasions to display dissatisfaction with Zeman's actions; in 2015 the official Pague Castle flag was replaced with a pair of red boxers.

IMMIGRATION Government to discuss Czech-Slovak border controls today

The Czech government will today discuss whether to extend, amend, or halt existing border controls on the Czechia-Slovakia border, ČTK reports.

Controls were imposed from late September to stem the rising ride of illegal immigrants – most of whom originate from the Middle East, and travel through the Western Balkans. They predominantly use Czechia as a transit country on the way to Germany and other Western countries.

Border checks have softened in the past month, and have become less routine and more random. The number of illegal immigrants detained at the border has dropped significantly in recent weeks.

SPORT Czech tennis youngster's Australian Open run comes to end

Young Czech tennis star Jiří Lehečka’s magical run in the Australian Open tournament yesterday came to an end. He was defeated by world number four Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

Lehečka’s run saw him beat fellow youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime from Canada, who is ranked seven in the world, and Brit Cameron Norrie, who is the world number 12.

"It was a great ride…[I] gained a lot of experience and suggestions for improvement” ČTK quotes Lehečka as saying after the match.

Jan. 24, 2023

ELECTION 2023 Senior politicians react to Babiš death threat

Senior government politicians have this afternoon quickly responded to presidential candidate Andrej Babiš’s announcement that he would stop holding public campaign meetings due to an anonymous death threat. 

"Politicians get threats, it's not unusual, I get them too. Unfortunately, it's part of what a politician has to endure,” Prime Minister Petr Fiala told journalists today, also mentioning that the message to Babiš was unacceptable.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan expressed his belief that Babiš’s campaign was “simply not working…as imagined,” and that today’s statement was “more of an excuse,” ČTK writes.

Chamber of Deputies Speaker Markéta Pekarová Adamová wrote on Twitter that such threats “did not belong to democracy,” but that a press conference was unnecessary.

ELECTION 2023 Babiš announces suspension of in-person campaign

Presidential candidate Andrej Babiš has today announced that he will suspend physical appearances in his campaign due to an anonymous death threat he received, ČTK reports.

Babiš said at a press conference today that the threat came in the form of a letter, reading “either you lose or die.”

Babiš subsequently canceled a trip to Hradec Králové that he was due to make today. He said that he wanted to take steps that would avoid endangering his family or himself.

A few days ago, his wife received an envelope containing a bullet from a gun. Fellow candidate Petr Pavel condemned the threats today.

DIPLOMACY Zeman meets with Polish president

President Miloš Zeman today hosted Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda in the north of Czechia, close to the Polish-Czech border.

The meeting comes soon after the controversial comments of presidential candidate Andrej Babiš that, if he were president, he would not assist Poland militarily if it were invaded. 

The main topics of this afternoon’s discussion were cooperation on the Polish-Czech border, and the development of tourism between both countries, ČTK reports.

ELECTION 2023 Pavel calls on Babiš to help diffuse public tension

Presidential candidate Petr Pavel has today called on his election opponent Andrej Babiš to “ease the heated situation in society,” Seznam Zprávy writes. According to Pavel, Babiš is leading a purposefully divisive and aggressive campaign.

No matter which of us wins, be aware of the responsibility for what state our society will be in after the elections," said Pavel.

Babiš’s campaign team last week installed a billboard accusing Pavel of not believing in peace. 

Babiš this afternoon retorted by saying that Pavel’s claim makes “no sense,” because Pavel has always supported soldiers.

DIPLOMACY Zeman sends condolences following another US shooting

President Miloš Zeman Tuesday sent a message to U.S President Joe Biden expressing his condolences at recent mass shootings that occurred in California, claiming the lives of 24 people in the space of eight days. 

“In these difficult times, allow me to express my deepest condolences on behalf of the Czech public and on behalf of myself to you and the families of the victims,” Zeman wrote on the official presidential website.

Seven people were shot dead at an agricultural facility Monday, following a separate killing that killed 11 people who were celebrating the Lunar New Year. A different killing occurred just over a week ago, which claimed six lives.

ARMS Germany to send tanks to Czechia and Slovakia

The German government has announced that 29 refurbished “Leopard” army tanks will be sent to Czechia and Slovakia to make up for aid sent by both countries to Ukraine, ČTK cites German news magazine Stern as writing.

Slovakia will receive 15 tanks and the Czech Republic 14. According to the head of German arms company Rheinmetall, they will be delivered in April or May. Germany is currently facing pressure from other European countries to deliver more tanks to Ukraine, The Guardian reports.

SPORT Skier Ledecká to miss Ski World Cup due to injury

Skier-snowboarder Ester Ledecká, who is a three-time Olympic champion, announced Monday in a press release reported by ČTK that she would not take partake in the 2023 Alpine Skiing World Championships, citing a collarbone injury. The tournament is due to begin in about two weeks.

However, Ledecká said that she hoped to participate in the Snowboarding World Championships, to be held in the second half of February in Georgia. Ledecká is the number one-ranked female skier in Czechia, holding two world titles.

ELECTION 2023 Pavel dominates Babiš in recent poll

A recent survey by the Median polling agency has put former army general Petr Pavel as firm favorite to win the presidential election – the second round of which begins this Friday.

He would receive 57.9 percent of the public vote according to the poll. According to Median, 76 percent of respondents are “sure” of their choice, as Novinky.cz reports.

The vast majority of voters for the less-popular candidates (such as Danuše Nerudová and Pavel Fischer) said they would vote for Pavel.

Support for former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is highest in the Ústí nad Labem and Karlovy Vary regions, whereas Pavel enjoys strong support in Prague and Central Bohemia.

EVENT Babiš responds to bullet being sent to his wife

Presidential candidate Andrej Babiš addressed yesterday a live bullet being sent to his wife in an interview with Nova TV, ČTK writes. He said that over the weekend his wife had received an envelope containing a bullet – he said in Monday’s interview that the letter originated from Brno.

He noted that such threats have “no place in a free society,” and asserted that his wife was in no real danger. He did, however, say that his family “feared for their lives” as a result.

DIPLOMACY New UK ambassador to Czechia officially starts role

The new British ambassador to the Czech Republic, Matthew Field, officially began his tenure yesterday following his announcement on Twitter. He is replacing Nick Archer, who had been ambassador for five years.

Field has previously served as ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, a post he held for four and a half years. Prior to this, he had worked for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Brazil. He also spent some time in Japan teaching English and had been part of the 2002 World Cup organizing committee.

Jan. 23, 2023

IMMIGRATION Illegal immigration rises sharply in Czechia

In a press conference this afternoon, Czech Police President Martin Vondrášek said that almost 30,000 illegal immigrants were caught and detained in Czechia – a year-on-year increase of 160 percent.

Many of the immigrants traveled through the Western Balkans, attempting to pass Czechia on their way to Western Europe.

"We are one of the transit countries that mainly Syrian nationals with Turkish temporary protection use,” said Vondrášek. Transit migration – illegal migration through one country on the way to another – saw a large increase: 21,852 were caught illegally traveling through Czechia, from 1,330 in 2021.

When asked about whether more police would be deployed on Czechia's borders in 2023, Vondrášek told Expats.cz that the Interior Ministry would decide later this week.

Law Outline for cannabis market regulation should be ready by March

The outlines of the law on regulating the Czech cannabis market should be ready by the end of March, ČTK reported. The law will focus on the rules of cultivation, manufacture of hemp products, distribution, sale, export, and taxation. National anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil said he wants to make sure that the changes start to apply next year. Vobořil said that the regulation would be much stricter than for tobacco products. He added that having a strictly regulated market is better than repression and criminal penalties.

Election 2023 Pavel would make Poland his second visit as president

If elected, Presidential candidate Petr Pavel would pay his second foreign visit as head of state to Poland to assure Poles and the Baltic countries that the Czech Republic respects agreements, he tweeted, in reaction to rival Andrej Babiš’s comments in Sunday’s debate. Pavel previously said he would pay his first foreign visit in office to Slovakia and Ukraine.  

ELECTION 2023 Polish media react to Babiš's war comments

The Polish media reacted Sunday and this morning in surprise to the claims of former Prime Minister and presidential candidate Andrej Babiš that “he would not send troops” to Poland in the event of a Russia-driven attack.

“Surprising words of the candidate for president,” said Polish public radio broadcaster polskieradio24.pl, as Novinky.cz reports.

Polish journalist Jakub Ceglarz, worming for Business Insider Polska, wrote that Babiš is “not one of Poland's greatest friends. Years ago, he called our food 'shit' and recently a conflict flared up around the Turów power plant, which was not resolved during his government.”

WEATHER Cold and snowy weather to continue this week

The freezing and snowy conditions seen over the weekend are set to continue throughout the second half of this week, with temperatures barely rising above zero degrees Celsius according to the forecast of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

In the capital, Tuesday will be the warmest day of the week with temperatures reaching a maximum of three degrees Celsius. Wednesday will see similar temperatures nationwide. Snow is expected across most of the country on Thursay and Friday, including in Prague, Central Bohemia, and Liberec. 

ELECTION 2023 Petr Pavel hit by virus, cancels part of schedule

Presidential candidate Petr Pavel has announced that he will cancel his campaign plans for today owing to a virus, ČTK writes. He was unable to visit a concert in Prague Sunday due to illness, but he did attend a debate in the evening on the same day against rival Andrej Babiš

“We will limit the program to a minimum so I can get better,” he said. “Wednesday and Thursday will be very important, so I would like to be in shape,” he added.

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