Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas on Friday called for an end to violence in Egypt and a peaceful transition to democracy in the country. Speaking in Brussels at the start of an EU summit, the prime minister said the Czech Republic had undergone such a transformation after the fall of communism in 1989 and was ready to offer assistance and know-how once the process was on track. The latest developments in Egypt will be debated at the summit and the 27-member alliance is expected to issue a joint appeal for an end to the violence, reiterating its promise to help Egypt on the road to democracy.
Several dozen people, mainly citizens of Arab countries, gathered outside the Egyptian Embassy in Prague to support the call for democratic reforms in Egypt. The demonstrators called for the immediate demise of President Hosni Mubarak and a peaceful hand-over of power. One of the organizers of the protest action Egyptian student Muhammad Hasan likened the protests in Egypt to the 1989 anti-communist demonstrations in Czechoslovakia which lead to the fall of communism.
Czech Airlines and the country’s travel agencies have lost millions of crowns as a result of the unrest in Egypt. Czech Airlines has estimated its losses to date at around 100 million crowns, while travel agencies say they have lost around 50 million as a result of cancelled package holidays to Egypt in February. Czech travel agencies are currently bringing their holiday makers back from Egypt’s Red Sea resorts amidst growing concerns over security. Five Travel Service chartered flights and one Czech Airlines flight are being dispatched in the course of the next two days. Ninety-nine percent of Czech holiday makers in Egypt should be back home by the end of the week.
Cambodian Princess Norodom Arunrasmy, sister of the reigning King Norodom Sihamoni, has arrived in Prague to attend the annual Opera Ball held this weekend. The princess is a patron of the event although strict royal protocol does not enable her to dance. The ball will be held under the aegis of the Prague and Vienna mayors, and in the Cambodian colours. The Cambodian royal family have close ties to Prague not least because the King Norodom Sihamoni studied at the Czech Conservatory.
The director of Postal Services Marcela Hrda has agreed to vacate her post by the end of February after coming under fire for incompetence from Interior Minister Radek John. The minister has slammed the Postal Services head for lacking vision, poor decision-making such as scrapping offices where they are essential and a general failure to prepare the company’s transformation from a state-owned to a joint stock company. Her successor is to be elected by a special board.
Doctors report a heightened incidence of swine flu across the country with some regions having crossed the threshold of an epidemic. South Moravia reports a 17 percent increase in flu cases in the past week alone and five schools in the region have closed due to illness. The country’s chief hygiene officer has advised all Czech hospitals to close their doors to visitors. A dozen swine flu patients are reported to be on support ventilation in serious condition.
The Labour and Social Affairs Ministry is to set up a special commission to investigate the case of an eight-year-old who suffered years of physical and psychological abuse despite the fact that neighbours repeatedly alerted social workers to the problem. The child was severely undernourished with signs of physical abuse all over his body. His parents had reportedly put thumbtacks in his shoes and made him run around the room for hours whimpering in pain. At least one neighbour came forward to say she had heard wailing and screaming from the flat and repeatedly called social workers to check up on the family. The child’s class teacher also said she had rung the authorities to report the problem. The police is investigating why no action was taken.
An elephant attacked one of its keepers at Dvur Kralove Zoo on Friday morning. The incident happened during a routine visit to the elephants’ enclosure when the animals were being fed. Another keeper was in the enclosure at the time and helped get the injured man out. He was airlifted to hospital and doctors report that he escaped with severe bruises and is suffering from shock. It is not clear why the elephant attacked him. The last time an elephant attacked a keeper was in 2001 when the incident ended in tragedy. The twenty-four- year-old keeper died shortly after being transported to hospital. The elephant died soon after, which led vets to believe that she may have been in severe pain when the attack occurred.
The Romany language is not taught at any school in the Czech Republic due to a lack of interest on the part of Romany children, the ctk news agency reported on Friday. The Education Ministry recently introduced the possibility of optional courses in the Romany language, culture and history at primary and secondary schools around the country in order to allow Romany children to embrace their cultural heritage. At least seven children are needed for the Romany language course to become an optional subject. Romany language teachers from the Museum of Romany Culture said no Czech school had requested their services so far.
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