Czech President Zeman returns to hospital after positive Covid-19 test

Zeman is set to leave hospital on Saturday and will then appoint Petr Fiala as the country’s new PM

Jan Lopatka
Friday 26 November 2021 12:02
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<p>President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman speaks at a conference in June</p>

President of the Czech Republic Milos Zeman speaks at a conference in June

Czech President Milos Zeman has been readmitted to hospital after testing positive for Covid-19, just hours after he had been discharged following more than a month’s treatment for an unrelated condition.

Zeman, 77, was released from the Prague military hospital to home care on Thursday morning but an ambulance took him back in the evening after testing positive at the presidential retreat at Lany, west of Prague.

"The president’s programme will be suspended pending the treatment of COVID-19," his office said in a statement.

However, his spokesperson said on Friday that he would be released from hospital on Saturday.

Zeman will appoint Petr Fiala, the leader of a coalition of centre-right parties, as the new prime minister on Sunday - two days later than originally planned - the spokesperson said.

The news of his hospitalisation came as the Czech Republic reported its highest daily caseload - 27,717 new infections - since the pandemic started, while the government on Thursday ordered bars and clubs to close at 10 p.m. and banned Christmas markets.

Zeman has been vaccinated against the coronavirus three times and local media quoted unnamed sources as saying he showed no symptoms.

The president was previously admitted to hospital on 10 October with complications to a chronic illness that his office never specified but which doctors said was a liver condition. Zeman is a heavy smoker and drinker who has suffered from diabetes. He has trouble walking and has been using a wheelchair.

He went into hospital a day after a parliamentary election in which Zeman’s allies, led by Prime Minster Andrej Babis, lost to a centre-right coalition and the president’s leverage over parliament was undermined.

Zeman was initially treated in an intensive care unit and doctors said the prognosis was uncertain. Parliament prepared to debate taking away his presidential duties but after several weeks the president’s condition improved.

He had said he would respect the election result and that he would appoint the centre-right leader Fiala as prime minister on Friday, with the appointment of the Cabinet to follow later.

Zeman, who has 15 months remaining in his second and final five-year term, will appoint Fiala at the presidential retreat at Lany, west of Prague.

Fiala’s Together coalition of three parties defeated outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s ANO party in an October election and is forming a government with another coalition consisting of the Pirate and Mayors parties.

The new government, once it takes power, faces another surge in the coronavirus pandemic, with daily infections reaching new highs and hospitals coming under strain.

The Czech Republic registered an average of 1,516 daily Covid-19 cases per million population over the past week, the third highest in the world behind Slovakia and Austria. About 58.5% of the Czech population have been vaccinated, below the EU average of 65.8%, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Reuters / AP

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