The Czech health authorities say the swine flu is proving a greater threat than previously thought. The head of the Czech Immunology Society Roman Prymula told the CTK news agency on Thursday that swine flu caused more health complications and resulted in more deaths than the seasonal flu. Three regions in the Czech Republic have now reached the threshold of an epidemic. Eight people have died of the swine flu or complications resulting from it to date and the health authorities currently register over 600 cases. Since only patients with serious problems are tested, experts say the actual number of cases could be much higher.
There is also growing concern among the public regarding the possible side effects of the swine flu vaccine. Although vaccinations have started hundreds of chronic patients and health workers have rejected the offer because they fear the vaccine has not been properly tested. Health Minister Dana Jurásková has tried to calm fears, saying that the vaccine was deemed safe enough for children and urging those who are eligible to get their shot. She advised vaccination centres to ask people who reject the vaccine to give them a written statement taking responsibility for their decision.
Prime Minister Jan Fischer on Thursday announced the names of three new cabinet ministers expected to take office on Monday. The Czech Republic’s ambassador to Australia, Juraj Chmiel, is to replace European Affairs Minister Štefan Füle who has been nominated as the Czech candidate for Eurocommissioner. Environment Minister Ladislav Miko, who is returning to his post in Brussels, will be replaced by his deputy Jan Dusík and Pavel Žárecký is to be the new head of the government’s legislative council.
Czech Human Rights Minister Michal Kocáb says he is working on a national plan to curb domestic violence. The plan should help not only the victims but also children who suffer serious traumas as a result of witnessing such incidents. Some 10, 000 people have sought help in connection with domestic violence this year alone, and 92 percent of the victims are women. Over 1,500 children have had to be placed in asylum homes with their mothers to protect them from domestic violence. Close to 700 perpetrators of domestic violence were temporarily expelled from their homes this year. Mr. Kocáb says they should be made to undergo therapy as well.
A US military plane carrying troops from Iraq was forced to make an emergency landing in Prague shortly after midnight on Thursday. The pilot requested an emergency landing after smelling smoke in the cockpit. The plane landed safely and an airport spokeswoman said no assistance was necessary. The soldiers were accommodated in a Prague hotel and are expected to continue their journey home shortly after midnight on Thursday.
The Dutch anti-Islamist politician Geert Wilders has cancelled a planed visit to Prague after his hosts proved unable to find a venue for his appearance. Mr. Wilders was invited by a Czech anti-Islamist website and Civic Democrat senator, Jiří Oberfalzer earlier this month for a screening of his controversial film Fitna and a debate on the subject. His planned appearance in the Czech Senate was banned, and efforts to set up the lecture at Prague’s Aventin Palace also came to nothing after the palace management refused to have him on the premises.
The Czech military has bought two Israeli-made pilotless surveillance planes for the price of 50 million crowns, the news server Euro reports. The Skylark II aircraft are used for surveillance in low and medium altitudes and will be used in the country’s foreign missions. The places were produced by the Elbit Systems company and the order was mediated by the Czech MP1 Group.
Two Czech men who were sentenced to eight months in a Cuban jail for a breach of the peace earlier this month have been released, Petra Jecinova, from the Czech embassy in Cuba told the CTK news agency on Thursday. The two men were detained at Havana Airport on March 22 after arriving drunk, getting into a fight and resisting arrest. Their eight-month punishment expired this week since time spent in custody is regarded as time served. Both men will now be expelled from the country.
Czech league leaders Teplice have been hit by illness, including the H1N1 flu virus, and have asked for Sunday's first division match against Viktoria Plzen to be postponed, a club spokesman said on Thursday. Eighteen of the 24 first-team squad are ill, with at least five suffering from H1N1 flu. Teplice, who are top with 32 points from 15 matches, had already asked for last Monday's match against Olomouc to be postponed but the Czech FA declined the request. Teplice fielded a mostly reserve team and lost 6-2.
Speaking in Baghdad at the end of his two-day visit to Iraq, the Czech foreign minister, Jan Kohout, promised Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the Czech Republic would send observers to Iraq to monitor the course of general elections scheduled for January 2010. Commenting on business relations, Mr Kohout said that agreements on investment protection and double taxation avoidance between the two countries needed to be signed to promote the interest of Czech companies on the Iraqi market. In Baghdad, Mr Kohout also launched an exhibition titled “1989 through the eyes of photographers”.