Two more cases of swine flu have been registered in the Czech Republic, bringing the total number of cases recorded here to 17. According to the Czech Health Ministry, one man fell ill with the H1N1 virus after returning to the Czech Republic from the United States, while the second contracted the virus on holiday in Thailand. One of the two patients is making a good recovery at home, said a ministry spokesperson, while the second remains in Prague’s Bulovka hospital in what is said to be a ‘stable’ condition.
The Canadian government has allegedly decided upon the reintroduction of visa restrictions for Czechs traveling to Canada and is due to make the announcement officially on Tuesday, reported Czech Television on Friday. Canada has been considering the reimposition of visa restrictions for Czechs for a while, following the high number of asylum claims being made predominantly by Czech Romany traveling to the country. In the first four months of this year, Ottawa received some 1,077 asylum claims from Czechs. Last year, some 861 Czechs sought asylum in the North American state. Visa restrictions were lifted after negotiations between Prague and Ottawa in 2007. Such visa restrictions had already been lifted once in 1997, but were reimposed after a matter of months when hundreds of Czechs flocked to Canada and sought asylum.
Oscar-winning director Miloš Forman was welcomed back to his native Czech Republic as a star on Friday at the opening ceremony of the 44th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The filmmaker was applauded as he arrived at the festival’s opening ceremony, which was also attended by Czech President Václav Klaus and Prime Minister Jan Fischer. During the festival, the director will present his new film ‘A Walk Worthwhile’ ahead of its general release on July 9. The 44th annual film festival in the west Bohemian town will also see Crystal Globes handed out to French actress Isabelle Huppert and US actor John Malkovich. The President’s Prize at this year’s festival is to be handed to Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.
Water levels have receded further in South Bohemia following some of the worst flooding the region has experienced in recent history. On Friday, a spokesperson for the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute said that the situation was improving in the region, which has seen flooding cause millions of crowns worth of damage in the past week. On Friday, there were more storms in South Bohemia, but rivers continued to subside, Tomáš Vlasák said. Flash floods in North Moravia and South Bohemia killed 14 people last week, and left hundreds of households cut off without electricity and gas. Around 1,000 soldiers were deployed to help emergency services rescue people from the floods and get the clean-up operation underway.
The leadership of the Social Democrat Party approved the party’s manifesto ahead of early elections, to be held in the Czech Republic this October. At a meeting of the party leadership on Friday, senior Social Democrats also approved the list of candidates for this autumn’s early elections, party leader Jiří Paroubek said afterwards on Friday evening. Fifth on the party’s list of candidates is former rebel Green MP Olga Zubová, who voted against her party to topple the government in March, paving the way for this autumn’s early elections. In second place on the party’s list of candidates is the controversial Governor of Central Bohemia, David Rath, who some in the party had hoped would not run for Parliament.
The decision to put former Green MP Olga Zubová on the Social Democrats’ list of candidates for this autumn’s early elections sparked ire at a party conference on Saturday. The Social Democrats’ deputy leader Bohuslav Sobotka said that he had found out about Ms Zubová’s nomination on the internet on Friday night and that more discussion was needed about such a controversial appointment. South Moravian Governor Michal Hašek said that he hoped those who nominated Ms Zubová for the candidacy would take full responsibility for their decision. Ms Zubová was a member of the Social Democratic Party until 2005 when she decided to run for the Czech Greens. After a series of conflicts with former Green Party head Martin Bursík, Ms Zubová left the Greens to found her own Democratic Green Party, which failed to gain any seats in the recent elections to the European Parliament.
Around 100 people gathered on Prague’s Palackého náměstí on Saturday to protest against the eviction of squatters from the capital’s Milada squat last week. On Tuesday, a private security firm contracted by the building’s owners threw squatters out with the help of the Czech police. Three policemen were injured in the process, and four squatters were arrested. Human Rights and Minorities Minister Michael Kocáb announced on Friday that he had found alternative accommodation for the evicted squatters, on Prague’s Truhlářská Street.
On Friday, the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and Communists spoke out against the government’s plans to cut the Czech Academy of Sciences’ funding by up to 50 percent over the next three years. After a meeting of the Social Democrats’ party leadership on Friday evening, Shadow Education Minister Jiří Havel called the proposals ‘unacceptable’. Head of the Christian Democrats Cyril Svoboda meanwhile said that the government could afford to continue funding the Academy of Sciences, and called upon the cabinet to do so. Jan Fischer’s government wants to cut universities’ funding by more than 1 billion crowns (nearly 54 million USD) this year, and by more than half to 2.8 billion crowns (151 million USD) by 2012. On Friday, the government’s plans were praised by the Czech Chamber of Commerce, who called researchers and academics to work in closer cooperation with industry in the Czech Republic.
In sport, former Czech national football coach Karel Brueckner has said that he is considering taking up the job one more time. Mr Brueckner told the daily newspaper Sport that he had already been in negotiation with the head of the Czech FA Ivan Hašek about the proposal. The former national coach said that he would ideally like to become an advisor to the team, but that he would not rule out the idea of coaching the Czechs once more. Following the dismissal of František Straka from the job, after only one match in charge, there has been speculation that new Czech FA head Ivan Hašek would be interested in coaching the team himself, with the help and advice of several other trainers. On Thursday, Mr Hašek’s first choice for the job, Slavia coach Karel Jarolím, ruled himself out of the running, citing current work commitments.
Large-scale cleanup operations are underway in South Bohemia as flood waters abate. Local firemen and charity organisations are being assisted by the Czech army in the initial work of clearing debris, purifying waterways and repairing roads. More than 500 homes have been inundated in South Bohemia, and the region has estimated total damages in the hundreds of millions of crowns.