Prime Minister Petr Nečas has threatened to resign if the junior coalition party Public Affairs jeopardized the government’s reforms. In an interview for the commercial station Public TV, the prime minister said Public Affairs should make up its mind whether it wanted to be in government or in opposition. He was reacting to a rapprochement between the junior coalition party and the opposition Social Democrats in recent weeks. A recent internal e-vote of Public Affairs party members and their supporters showed that they want the planned pension and health care reform bills to be passed by Parliament as Constitutional bills requiring the support of three-fifths of both deputies and senators. This would complicate matters for the coalition government which would not have enough votes to push through the reform bills.
Czech travel agencies have begun scrapping tourist trips to Egypt for safety reasons over riots escalating in the country, Czech travel agencies´ association vice-president Tomio Okamura has said. The agencies have offered an early return to Czech tourists; most agencies have also offered their clients bound for Egypt to choose whether they want to leave for the North African country or for another foreign destination. At present, there are around 1,000 Czech tourists in Egypt. Seven charter flights continue leave the Czech Republic for the North African country each week, Mr Okamura said. After mass riots spread in Egypt last week, Czech agencies abolished previously scheduled tours of Cairo, Assuan and Alexandria. They began scrapping or postponing whole holiday stays after the withdrawal from Egypt by British and US tourists. According to Mr Okamura, the country is the seventh most popular foreign tourist destination of Czechs, visited by 170,000 annually. The Czech Foreign Ministry has advised Czechs to postpone all non-essential trips until the situation stabilizes.
The international service of Czech Radio, Radio Prague, ends broadcasting on shortwave on Monday, 75 years after regular broadcasts on shortwave were first relayed from the Czechoslovak (now Czech) Radio building in Vinohradská Street. The first broadcast was on August 31, 1936 and included recorded music and live announcements in several languages. It also included a speech in English by technical director of Czechoslovak Radio Eduard Svoboda. The station’s decision to cut shortwave after 75 years followed a severe budget cut by the Foreign Ministry in line with government austerity measures aimed at reducing the state deficit. The station, which has seen some reduction in staff, will continue its broadcasts in six languages via the internet as its main platform, as well as on satellite; it will also continue cooperation with partner stations in re-broadcasting.
The Czech Nurses' Association (ČAS) has come out against the idea that two billion crowns - set aside by the government to increase wages – should benefit hospital doctors alone. The association’s chairwoman Dana Jurasková made the statement on Monday. She also met with Prime Minister Petr Nečas and is to meet with Health Minister Leoš Heger on Tuesday. The head of the Czech Doctors’ Association, Martin Engel, countered that since nurses failed to join the doctors’ long-running protest campaign for higher wages and better work conditions, they should set aside their demand until health care reforms kick in. But the prime minister has said he is against the idea of the money being given only to doctors. There are roughly 80,000 nurses in the Czech Republic, 15,000 of them are members of ČAS.
The Finance Ministry revealed on Monday it has revised upward its economic growth forecasts for 2010 and 2011 because of a lasting recovery in the economy. The ministry said it would revise its growth forecast for 2010 to 2.5 percent from the previously predicted 2.2 percent, and for 2011 to 2.2 percent from 2.0 percent. Statisticians will release an estimate of 2010 growth on February 15. The ministry expects growth to slow this year against 2010 amid austerity measures adopted by the centre-right government in a bid to bring the country's public finances back on track. But it forecasts a pick-up in the pace to 2.7 percent in 2012. The Czech National Bank, which will update its own forecast on Thursday, expects economic growth for 2010 to have reached 2.3 percent, before a slowdown to 1.2 percent this year and an acceleration to 2.5 percent in 2012. In 2009, the Czech economy, which is heavily dependent on car production, contracted by 4.1 percent as a result of the global crisis, while the public finance deficit climbed to 5.8 percent of GDP.
The Czech National Bank has reported that household debt in the Czech Republic in December increased by 5.8 billion crowns to an overall 1.056 trillion (the equivalent of around 60 billion US dollars). Over 2010 it rose by 72.9 billion in all. Company debt in December, by contrast, dropped by 17.24 billion compared with that month in the previous year.
The Czech Republic’s Fire Rescue Service reported on Monday that last year 131 people died in fires in the country – a 14 percent jump from the previous year. The number of those who suffered injury also rose, from 980 to 1061. At the same time, the number of fire emergencies dropped by 12 percent with a total of a little over 17,900 cases registered. The statistics were released by the service on Monday and also covered natural disasters such as flooding, where rescue workers evacuated more than 37,000 people from their homes. In 2010, the highest number of fires in the Czech Republic occurred in private homes, which was followed by fires in traffic accidents.
Epidemiologists have reported that a flu epidemic will complicate the lives of Czechs in the coming days, with incidence of flu or flu-related illnesses jumping by 16 percent last week. The State Health Institute registered 1,729 cases per one hundred thousand people – an epidemic is defined as upwards of 2,000 cases. The epidemic is not nationwide as yet: the regions hardest hit include Pardubice and Zlín and the flu has so far affected mostly children, teens and young adults up to the age of 24. Seven people in the country, including three patients in Central Bohemia, had to be hospitalised after contracting the pandemic H1N1 or swine flu. This week, the general spread of flu was curbed somewhat by freezing temperatures and could be further slowed next week when children have time off for spring break.
Czech tennis player Petra Kvitová has moved up from 28th to 18th spot in the women’s rankings after her recent run at the Australian Open, where she went out in the quarterfinals. It is the first time in her career that the 20-year-old has broken into the top 20. No Czech female player has ranked among the twenty best players in the world since Nicole Vaidišová succeeded in June 2008.
Czech skicross competitor Tomáš Kraus has finished in a disappointing 11th spot at the X-Games in Aspen, Colorado. The Czech skier and former world champion qualified from 9th spot but was knocked out in the semi-final. The competition was won by US skier John Teller. This year marked Kraus’ eighth appearance at the X-Games: his best result in the competition ever was 4th, in 2006.
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