Czech health minister caught breaking virus rules

The Czech health minister was under fire Friday after a tabloid photographer caught him leaving a restaurant that should have been closed under his own anti-virus restrictions.

Roman Prymula, an epidemiologist who has been in office since September, also failed to wear a face mask when he got in his car with a driver, the Blesk daily reported.

His actions drew criticism from social media users, the opposition and even the governing coalition, as the Czech Republic records the worst new Covid-19 figures across Europe.

“The rules must be valid for everyone, without exception,” Interior Minister Jan Hamacek, the head of the government’s crisis committee, said in a statement quoted by the CTK news agency.

“He cannot go on as health minister.”

Hamacek is chairman of the leftwing Social Democrats, the party in government with the ruling populist ANO movement that had nominated Prymula.

“How can the rules be set by a man who breaks them?” Petr Fiala, head of the opposition Civic Democrats, told reporters.

The EU member of 10.7 million people has registered more than 223,000 cases and 1,845 deaths since the March outbreak.

It now leads the EU in terms of new deaths and cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

On Wednesday, Prymula announced a partial lockdown until November 3, closing most shops and services and curbing freedom of movement.

The government has also made face masks mandatory in most places and closed restaurants and bars as well as most other public facilities.

Prymula is not the only government member to have drawn criticism for his behaviour during the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis vacationed in Crete over the summer after urging Czechs to stay at home, while Deputy Prime Minister Alena Schillerova raised eyebrows with her perfect hairstyles when all salons were closed during the first virus wave.