Czech president back in hospital after positive Covid test

Czech President Milos Zeman returned to hospital hours after being released Thursday as he tested positive for Covid-19.

Zeman was expected to appoint centre-right leader Petr Fiala as prime minister on Friday, but the presidential spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said this would now be put on hold.

The 77-year-old leftwinger was hospitalised on October 10, a day after a general election, and treated for liver problems that doctors have suggested could be cirrhosis.

Zeman left Prague’s Military University Hospital (UVN) for home care at his Lany chateau residence west of Prague on Thursday morning.

But on Thursday afternoon, Zeman “was tested for Covid-19 within the standards of the home care provider. Unfortunately, the result was positive,” Ovcacek said.

“The president’s programme will be suspended while he undergoes treatment for Covid-19,” he added as Zeman returned to the UVN.

The hospital said Zeman, who had received three doses of a Covid vaccine, showed no symptoms of the disease but would stay for observation.

“President Milos Zeman was admitted because of a positive Covid-19 test and to receive monoclonal antibodies,” the UVN said.

It added that Zeman took the test after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive.

– Record Covid infections –

Fiala is the chairman of the right-wing Civic Democratic Party, which teamed up with the centrist Christian Democrats and the centre-right TOP 09 party to form the Together alliance that won the October election.

The alliance narrowly defeated the populist ANO movement of outgoing billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

It then joined forces with a centrist grouping of the Mayors and Independents and the Pirate Party to clinch a majority of 108 votes in the 200-seat parliament.

The five parties put together a government while Zeman, who would normally have mediated the post-election talks, was in hospital.

Zeman, who is to name the prime minister and then the government, said he had a problem with one person in Fiala’s proposed cabinet, raising concerns that the pro-Russian Zeman might insist on a change.

But his latest hospitalisation has delayed things further at a time when the Czech Republic, an EU member of 10.7 million people, is grappling with record daily growths in Covid-19 infections.

The Czech health ministry registered 18,004 new cases on Wednesday after a record-high 25,877 the day before.

The spike led the outgoing Babis government to announce new restrictions on Thursday, including the closure of restaurants, bars and discos at night, as well as Christmas markets in their entirety.

Hospitals in the east are running out of capacity and some have begun to move patients to less congested facilities elsewhere in the country.

The Czech Republic is also grappling with unprecedented growth in energy prices and soaring inflation, which have thrown many people into uncertainty before Christmas.

by Jan Flemr