Coronavirus: Czech health minister will not quit after visiting restaurant closed for lockdown without a mask

Joe Sommerlad
·2 min read
Czech health minister Roman Prymula (Martin Divisek/EPA)
Czech health minister Roman Prymula (Martin Divisek/EPA)

Czech prime minister Andrej Babis has been left with little option but to dismiss his health minister, Roman Prymula, after he held a meeting in a Prague restaurant closed as part of new coronavirus lockdown measures and then refused to resign.

The minister was photographed by tabloid newspaper Blesk leaving the eatery late at night - and without wearing a face mask - in the company of colleague Jaroslav Faltynek, whom he had met to discuss Nato support for the country’s beleaguered healthcare system in its fight against the disease.

Both acts are violations of the central European nation’s current Covid restrictions.

"There's no other solution than his resignation from the post," Mr Babis told reporters. "It shouldn't have happened."

"If we want the people to abide by the rules... It is us who have to set an example.

Czech daily newspaper Blesk shows pictures of scandal-hit health minister Roman Prymula on its frontpageMartin Divisek/EPA
Czech daily newspaper Blesk shows pictures of scandal-hit health minister Roman Prymula on its frontpageMartin Divisek/EPA

"When our medical staff are fighting on the front line to save the lives of our fellow citizens, such a thing is absolutely inexcusable.

"We cannot preach water and drink wine."

The government’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats, joined the opposition to demand Mr Prymula's resignation, calling his behaviour "absolutely unacceptable".

But the minister, who is an epidemiologist by background and was only appointed to his current position as a “crisis manager” on 12 September, is refusing to budge, insisting the meeting in question was held in a private room and that he wore a mask en route.

"I haven't broken anything," he said.

Mr Babis is due to meet with the country's president, Milos Zeman, later on Friday to discuss a possible replacement.

His administration has been under fire since it eased lockdown restrictions earlier this summer but was then hesitant to reimpose them once a second wave of cases began to materialise.

It finally did so on Wednesday, after reporting a record-breaking 12,000 new cases in a single day.

The strict two-week national lockdown sees bars, restaurants and schools closed, as well as theatres, cinemas, zoos and many other locations, while professional sports competitions have also been banned.

One of the hardest-hit countries in Europe, the Czech Republic faces a hospital beds crisis and has recorded 223,000 cases and 1,845 deaths since the start of the pandemic from a population of approximately 10.7m.

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