CENTRAL EUROPEAN LETTER
He finally left his office Thursday, October 29 at noon. After nearly a week of tragicomedy, Roman Prymula, Czech Minister of Health, has given way to Jan Blatny. This hematologist from Brno hospital thus becomes the third Minister of Health in a little over a month in this country which is the most affected in Europe by Covid-19 alongside Belgium, with nearly 1 400 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last fourteen days. This waltz of ministers has become the symbol of the cacophony with which the central European country faces a second wave which is much stronger than the first.
The dismissal of Mr. Prymula had become inevitable after he was photographed Wednesday evening October 21 at the exit of a restaurant in Prague, normally closed due to measures taken under his leadership to try to limit contamination. Published in a tabloid Friday, October 23, the photos showing him leaving the Rio without a mask, located in the Vysehrad district south of the capital, sparked a wide controversy in the country. “We cannot preach water and drink wine, the minister should set an example”, notably attacked Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, asking his minister to resign.
Although he admitted having met the leader of the parliamentary group of the Prime Minister’s party in this restaurant, Mr. Prymula refused to comply, believing that he had “Nothing illegal”. At 56, this recognized epidemiologist with a particularly developed ego took up his post on September 25, replacing the previous minister pushed out after the poor performance of the Czech Republic in the fight against the second wave of Covid-19. The country had made a point of having resisted the first wave by taking drastic measures very early on like the rest of central Europe. Mr. Babis had published several videos to extol to the rest of the world his policy of making the mask mandatory.
But the return to school was dramatic after the return of the Czechs who had gone on vacation abroad and the delay in imposing new restrictive measures. At the end of September, Mr. Prymula then took the post of minister by promising to be intractable in the face of the epidemic. He did not hesitate to use Twitter extensively to give advice, such as on sex, always “Authorized, but only with a verified partner”. He had also pleaded within the coalition for more restrictive measures, finally adopted with the establishment of containment almost as strict as in the spring, even if exits remain authorized and borders open. If he eventually admitted that his outing was a “Political error”, it was necessary to make him leave that Mr. Babis launched a dismissal procedure, which was therefore successful on Thursday.
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