With Easter around the corner and a glorious bout of spring weather belying the gravity of the coronavirus crisis, the government has moved to ease restrictions at least in some small measure which would allow people to get a breath of fresh air and enjoy the spring holidays. However masses and caroling are strictly banned.
The key figure in the fight against the coronavirus epidemic in the Czech Republic, Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula, has made a surprising U-turn in favour of herd immunity as a means of beating the virus. He also indicated that life in the Czech Republic could return to normal sooner than anticipated.
The Czech government needs to invest hundreds of billions of crowns to shore up the economy, with the crucial auto industry particularly vulnerable. Measures being taken now will alleviate the unemployment that will inevitably follow the coronavirus crisis. And the weak crown is of no benefit to exporters if they aren’t producing anything. So says the vice president of the Czech Confederation of Industry, Radek Špicar, who I spoke to late last week.
Among the many coronavirus measures introduced by the Czech government is a “kurzarbeit”, or short-time working, programme. Under the scheme the state will make up some of the income lost by employees whose work is reduced by factory outages, helping firms avoid redundancies. The idea has received widespread backing, including from the Czech Confederation of Trade Unions, headed by Josef Středula. I discussed it – and the outlook in general – with the unions chief.
Czech schools forced to lock their doors because of the coronavirus crisis will reopen in mid-May at the very earliest, the minister of education said on Monday. Plans are in place to make sure the usual round of end-of-year exams go ahead in some form. However, the current term will not be extended into the usual holiday period.
A three-year legal battle came to an end on Tuesday when the Czech Republic’s highest court rejected a challenge to a conflict of interest law. The legislation was dubbed “lex Babiš” for seeming to target the billionaire prime minister. However, judges denied it placed excessive restrictions on Mr. Babiš or other public officials.
A group of activists protested against the practice of Airbnb at the weekend, holding a three-day-long brainstorm on how to tackle the phenomenon of short-term letting platforms which many believe is hollowing out organic neighbourhoods in the centre. They were joined by Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib, who revealed details about a new City Hall plan for tougher regulations.
Philosopher and one-time dissident Jan Sokol is perhaps best-known among the Czech public as a failed presidential candidate, having missed out to Václav Klaus in the final round of voting in 2003, the last time the country’s head of state was chosen by legislators. Professor Sokol has known the current, directly elected president since before 1989 – and offers sharp criticism of Miloš Zeman in this the second half of a two-part interview. But first we discuss the period when, after the fall of communism, he was finally allowed to pursue an academic