Today's headlines: Daily news refresh for Czechia

The country's top news in brief for the week of Dec. 26–30, 2022 Staff

Written by Staff Published on 26.12.2022 12:15:00 (updated on 30.12.2022) Reading time: 15 minutes

Sports Czech tennis stars fall to United States 4-1 in United Cup

Czech tennis stars fell 4-1 to players from the United States in the opening match of the United Cup in Sydney. The inaugural event pits teams from different countries against each other in women's and men's singles and doubles events. In Group C action, the Czech Republic will next face Germany on Saturday.

Down to the United States 2-0 heading into Friday morning, the Czech team's hopes were lifted when Petra Kvitová topped Jessica Pegula 7-6, 6-4, but Tomáš Macháč had to drop out of his match against Frances Tiafoe due to an ankle injury and Jiří Lehečka and Marie Bouzková lost to Taylor Fritz and Pegula 6-2, 3-6, 7-10 in mixed doubles action.

Money Czech crown strengthens against euro, dollar

The Czech crown continues to close in on 11-year highs against the euro heading into the weekend, strengthening by .02 crowns to 24.20 crowns to the euro by the end of business on Thursday. Czech currency showed even stronger gains against the dollar yesterday, strengthening by .11 crowns to 22.69 crowns to the dollar, according to the latest data from Patria Online.

"The Czech koruna closed in on [highs] of 24.15 crowns to the euro and continues to move toward its strongest levels since mid-2011," Komerční banka economist Kevin Tran Nguyen told Czech News Agency. Despite low market activity over the holidays, the Prague Exchange also improved by .06 percent on Thursday to its highest levels since December 1.

Work Minimum social security payments increase for 2023

Minimum social security payments for the self-employed will increase heading into 2023. The minimum monthly social security payment for those who conduct business via a trade license next year will rise from 2,841 crowns to 2,944 crowns. Payments for those who use a flat-rate based on their income level will also increase.

"At the lowest flat rate, a self-employed person will pay 3,386 crowns [monthly] towards social insurance, i.e. slightly more than the minimum deposit," Mazars tax advisor told "For the middle flat rate, the social insurance contribution amounts to 7,446 crowns, and for the highest, 11,388 crowns."

New Year's Illegal Czech fireworks are being brought into Germany

Fireworks are being sold in Germany for the first time in three years following pandemic restrictions in 2020 and 2021, but due to strict regulations fireworks are still being illegally imported into the country from the Czech Republic. At the German-Czech border in Saxony yesterday, German police reportedly seized fireworks from people bringing fireworks into the country.

Fireworks can only be sold in Germany between December 29-31, and all items must be approved by the country's Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing or an EU equivalent. All buyers must also be over 18 years old. Because of more lax regulations in the Czech Republic, "fireworks tourism" is popular in border regions over the days leading up to New Year's Eve.

Crime Former Czech Health Minister ordered to return to prison

David Rath, a former Czech politician who served as the country's Health Minister from 2006-2007 and was sentenced to a seven-year prison term for accepting a bribe in 2015, has been ordered to return to prison by the Prague Regional Court. Rath was released last January while further appeals in his case were heard.

Rath and others in his case were sent a notice to return to prison yesterday. "The call for [the convicts] to start to serving their sentence in prison was sent to all convicts today. They all have a five-day deadline [to report to prison] after its delivery," Jiří Wažik, a spokesperson for the Prague court, told journalists.

Dec. 29, 2022

Health Covid medicine available in all Czech pharmacies as of January

The Czech Health Ministry announced today in a press release that the Paxlovid and lagevrio antiviral drugs, which are used in the treatment of Covid, will be available in all Czech pharmacies starting in January. Additionally, they will be covered by regular health insurance, and available based on a regular electronic prescription issued by a physician. 

At the moment, these are not covered by health insurance, and are only available in hospital pharmacies through paper prescriptions.

Economy Czechia heading towards recession, CEOs of major companies say

Almost all CEOs of large and medium-sized domestic companies believe the Czech Republic is heading towards a recession, according to a survey conducted by the consulting company PwC, and cited by Czech Radio.

While 90 percent of people surveyed believed recession would hit Czechia as early as the first half of 2023, 9 percent thought recession could be avoided in the next two years. Additionally, 40 percent said that 2022 was the most difficult year they had recently experienced. 

Czech NGO People in Need halts work in Afghanistan

The People in Need association announced on its website that it was temporarily suspending the majority of its activities in Afghanistan after receiving an ultimatum. Afghan authorities said that as of Dec. 25, women were no longer allowed to work for local and international NGOs operating in Afghanistan.

One of the largest NGOs in Central Europe, People in Need operates in the Czech Republic and in dozens of other countries, where it provides humanitarian aid, offers poverty relief, and education, and helps people living in social exclusion. 

New Year’s City of Prague issues friendly reminder about pyrotechnics ban

Prague authorities are reminding residents and visitors that the use of pyrotechnic products is prohibited in most places in the city center, including on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. A decree from 2020 bans their use year-round on the waterfront and in parks, as well as near hospitals, social facilities, animal shelters, and the Prague Zoo.

Violations of the ban are punished with CZK 10,000 on the spot, and up to CZK 100,000 in administrative proceedings, according to Novinky.

The ban is intended for the health and safety of residents, pets, and wildlife, which have been frequent victims of fireworks in recent years.

sport HC Sparta headed for Spengler Cup semi-finals after HC Davos win

After a 9:2 (2:1, 4:0, 3:1) win over HC Davos, Czech HC Sparta is now heading for the semi-finals of the international hockey tournament Spengler Cup, iDnes reports. Sparta's Michal Kempný marked two goals and two assists, while HC Davos player Matěj Stránský, who also hails from Czechia, scored one of the HC Davos goals.

HC Sparta will meet the winner of the Örebro HK - Canada game in one of the semi-finals, which take place on Dec. 30 at 3:10 p.m. The final is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. on Dec. 31.

Dec. 28, 2022

HEALTH Another Czech hospital bans hospital visits

Another hospital in Czechia has closed its doors to visitors following the spread of respiratory illnesses in the country, ČT24 writes.

The main hospital in Havlíčkův Brod, in the Vysočina Region, announced today that it would ban all visits to patients, unless in exceptional circumstances (such as terminal illness).

"We are trying to protect our hospitalized patients. There were a lot of visitors during the holidays…the number of patients with flu is increasing, [in] both children and adults," said Havlíčkův Brod Hospital spokeswoman Petra Černo.

Brno University Hospital announced the same measure last week, following in the footsteps of Prague's Thomayerova and Na Homolce hospitals.

Influenza-related illness has increased 59 percent week on week across Czechia, the Czech Hygiene Service announced earlier.

GOVERNANCE Convicted lawyer will no longer lead state communication agency

The Interior Ministry has announced today a change in the proposed leadership of the Czech governmental National Agency for Communication and Information Technologies (NAKIT), writes.

It had been announced Tuesday that lawyer Vladimír Chrástecký was originally nominated for the post. However, after a news story run by independent media outlet Neovlivní.cz that detailed Chrástecký’s previous conviction for protecting thieves, the government has reneged on its plan.

NAKIT will instead appoint as chair the current head of its law department, Jan Ďoubal.

Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, responsible for making changes to NAKIT’s composition, claimed that they had been unaware of Chrástecký’s criminal past. Rakušan has withdrawn his nomination.

WILDLIFE Female lynx escapes from Czech zoo

A female lynx is on the loose in Jihlava, Vysočina, at the time of writing. The animal was said to have escaped from the Jihlava zoo Tuesday evening, iDnes writes.

The animal began “freaking out and jumped onto a tree that was outside the enclosure,” after she was approached by staff, said zoo director Jan Vašák.

“We don't know how she managed it, the distance between the branches is not exactly small,” Vašák added.

The zoo has said that the lynx should not pose any danger to humans. She is thought to be near the wooded grounds of Jihlava’s psychiatric hospital, which is next to the zoo.

LEGAL Government announces plans to battle 'fake news'

The Minister of the Interior has today released details of a plan created to fight disinformation, Deník N reports. Prime Minister Petr Fiala aims to prosecute those who spread “fake news,” and wishes to financially support non-profit organizations that try to combat disinformation.

According to the proposal, the current government commissioner for disinformation will become the "national manager” of fighting fake news.

The Interior Ministry also noted that the country should employ more experts in the field of disinformation. In the first half of 2023 the government hopes to draft a bill that would allow for the blocking of conspiracy theory websites.

CYBERSECURITY Online personal-data theft attempts sees huge rise in 2022

Attempts to steal personal data have increased by “hundreds of percent” year on year in Czechia, according to a study by cybersecurity company Eset cited by Náš

Phishing was one of the most popular methods of obtaining data, as was spyware – almost 50 percent of all attacks on Windows computers in 2022 were spyware targeting user passwords. 

“The Czech Republic is on the list of target countries” for hackers according to Eset manager Martin Jirkal. The Russia-Ukraine war was said to have greatly increased the chances of cyber-related threats.

The CRIF Cyber ​​Observatory in a separate study found that Czech emails are among the most vulnerable in the world.

WEATHER Hurricance-like winds hit Czech mountain

Hurricane-speed gusts at the top of Sněžka mountain were reported earlier today, with wind speeds registering over 136 kilometers per hour. The cable car towards the top of the mountain has ceased operation, ČTK writes.

The mountain range has faced strong snowfall recently, with about 23 centimeters currently reported. Robert Dlouhý from the Krkonoše Mountain Service, which works in the Sněžka area, says that the possibility of an avalanche is low.

Currently, there is a “level one” danger warning of avalanches in the area on a five-level scale.

PERSONAL FINANCE About 30 percent of Czechs cut back on spending in 2022

Almost one in three Czechs had to cut back on spending this year, a survey by lender Provident Financial cited by ČTK revealed Tuesday.

Interestingly, about 50 percent of Czechs consider 2022 to have been “financially successful,” although one-third are worried about how they will manage in 2023.

Of those who experienced financial shortages, 23 percent turned to family for help and 9 percent applied for a loan.

“It is very likely that in the coming year people will have to tap into savings, or solve the lack of finances in other ways," said credit risk manager Marek Reichl of Provident.

ENVironment Air temperature in Czechia sees increase in last 60 years

The average air temperature in the Czech Republic has increased by 2 degrees Celsius in the last 60 years, wrote yesterday, citing a report by the Czech Statistical Office.

“The most pronounced linear trend [of increased warmth] is observed in July and August and in December and January,” said Lenka Crhová from the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

Member of Greenpeace Milan Vítek said that the cause is the burning of fossil fuels, pointing out that Czechia is burning twice the amount of the global average. 

The Czech Republic is among Europe’s largest producers of carbon dioxide emissions, according to World Bank data.

POLITICS Czech radio and television to air presidential candidates' messages

From Wednesday evening, public radio broadcaster Český rozhlas will air Czech presidential candidates’ one-minute campaign messages, ČTK reports. From Thursday, state broadcaster Česká televize will do the same, showing either 30- or 60-second campaign advertisements.

Radio broadcasts will be heard on all regional stations, as well as the Radiožurnál and Djovka stations. Radio addresses will air until Jan. 10.

People can expect to see the candidates’ televised messages on the ČT24 and ČT1 channels, which will show campaign advertisements until Jan. 9. The first round of election is just over two weeks away.

Dec. 27, 2022

Crime Number of prisoners rising again this year

The number of prisoners has started to rise again in the Czech Republic this year, by some 400 since January. Prison capacity is at 96 percent and the Prison Service is short of wardens and guards. The security corps has invested over CZK 255 million into the construction adjustments in prisons.

As of Dec. 19, there were 19,153 convicts in custody. The number of convicts had been decreasing since 2016. This year's increase was very mild and it could have been caused by courts starting to work fully after the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the past two years the number of people convicted of the most frequent criminal offenses, such as thefts and robberies, dropped.

Inspections One-third of restaurants lack necessary signs

One-third of checked restaurants and clubs in the Czech Republic violate the ban on smoking and sale of alcohol to the underage, the October inspections by public health officers revealed. The Health Ministry tweeted the results. The police, customs officers, and the Czech Trade Inspection Authority (COI) also participated in the Alcohol, Drugs and Youth 2022 inspection operation.

Regional public health offices carried out 288 checks focused on signs informing clients about the ban on smoking and on the sale of tobacco products and alcoholic beverages to minors as well as the observance of the ban on smoking. They found shortcomings in 94 checks and proposed 27 fines worth CZK 120,600.

Sports Hundreds of swimmers took a Christmas dip in the Vltava

 About 350 swimmers took part in the 76th Alfred Nikodem Memorial race in the Vltava at Slovanský ostrov near the National Theatre in Prague on Dec 26, the second day of Christmas. The Alfred Nikodem Memorial is the oldest, biggest, and best-known winter swimming race in the Czech Republic. Participants swam in 4.9 degrees Celsius water against a strong current, which caused organizers to change the route.

The swimmers raced in three routes, 750 meters, 300 meters, and 100 meters. The memorial is named after Prague goldsmith Alfred Nikodem (1864-1949), who popularized winter swimming. The first race was held in 1923.

Election Czechs registering abroad for presidential election

Some 14,370 Czechs have registered to vote in the January presidential election at Czech diplomatic offices abroad, the Foreign Ministry website said. Other people can still come and use their voter card abroad. In the previous presidential election in 2018, some 12,463 Czechs took part in the first round of voting abroad and 17,507 in the second round.

Citizens with a long-term residence abroad or those who will vote abroad only this time could register in the special list of voters of an embassy or general consulate until Dec. 4. Most registered voters are now in London with 1,325 citizens, followed by Brussels with 1,028, Bratislava with 619, and Bern with 600 citizens.  

Tragedy Girl in hospital with after fall from Vyšehrad rampart

 A 16-year-old girl is in and induced coma at Motol University Hospital with spinal, pelvis and leg injuries after falling from the Vyšehrad rampart in Prague on Friday, the medical rescue service said on Twitter. The girl seems to have fallen by accident, according to the police. The passing ambulance crew was the first to reach the injured girl. They were later joined by a doctor.  

Dec. 26, 2022

Politics Czech President Miloš Zeman to deliver final Christmas address

Czech President Miloš Zeman will deliver his final Christmas address to the country from the presidential residence in Lány this afternoon. After serving two terms totaling ten years, Zeman will be succeeded as Czech President in March following the election of his successor in January.

In what will most likely be his final public speech before passing on his presidency, Zeman plans to speak longer than usual during his Christmas address today. Last Christmas, Zeman spoke out in favor of mandatory vaccination and addressed the Czech Republic's budget deficit, among other topics. Today's speech will be broadcast by Nova and other local television stations from 1:00 p.m. this afternoon.

Weather Unseasonably warm weather to continue through New Year's Day

Unseasonably warm temperatures will continue to be seen throughout the Czech Republic this coming week, with daily highs in most cities across the country approaching double digits. On New Year's Eve next Saturday, highs in Prague are expected to be in the region of 12 degrees Celsius, with the potential for occasional rain, reports the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute.

Today, most Czech cities including Prague will see overcast skies, scattered storms, and highs from 7-11 degrees Celsius. Temperatures will dip later this evening, with the potential for snow in mountainous areas more than 1000 meters above sea level. These areas will also see high winds of up to 70 kilometers per hour.

Holiday Czech Republic celebrates St. Stephen's Day

The Czech Republic celebrates the second Day of Christmas today, also known as Saint Stephen's Day. Like Christmas Day on December 25, large stores over 200 square meters in size must remain closed today, and can reopen from December 27. In the Christian Church, Saint Stephen is venerated as the first Christian martyr who gave his life for his beliefs.

Traditionally, Saint Stephen's Day is a time for Christmas carols; through the 19th century, young carolers would travel door-to-door on December 26. Though St. Stephen's own carol is no longer popular, the Feast of Stephen is referenced in the classic carol Good King Wenceslas, named after the Bohemian king. Neighbors and friends would also visit each other with gifts and warm wishes on Saint Stephen's Day.

Transport Czech Republic to build 15 kilometers of new highways next year

The Czech Republic plans to build 15.4 kilometers of new highways and 43.1 kilometers of new first-class roads in 2023, Ministry of Transport spokesperson František Jemelka told reporters today. The country's plans to expand roadways are much greater in 2024, when 118 kilometers of new highways and 41.5 kilometers of new roads will be constructed, he added.

In 2022, the Czech Republic opened a total of 21.2 kilometers of new highways and 14 kilometers of new roads. This includes new sections of the D48 highway by Frýdek-Místek and the D35 highway from Časy and Ostrov. Construction has already begun on new extensions to the D1 (from Říkovice to Přerov), D3 (Třebonín to Kaplice), and D55 (between Moravský Písek and Bzenec) highways.

Crime Life sentence upheld for Albanian who killed Czech tourists

An Albanian man serving a life sentence for the murder of a Czech couple has had his appeal rejected and will most likely spend the rest of his life behind bars, reports The man claimed that his rights were violated when he was denied a shortened trial, but a constitutional court has rejected his appeal.

Sokol Mjacaj is convicted of killing a Czech couple travelling in Albania in July, 2015. Posing as a hitchhiker, he flagged down the couple's car in an effort to rob them. When the driver attempted to flee, he shot him, resulting in a fatal crash that killed both occupants of the vehicle. Mjacaj confessed to the crime, but claims that the murder was accidental.

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