Prague, Czech Republic – Czech Health Minister Roman Prymula is facing pressure to resign after allegedly violating COVID-19 measures and restrictions.
In its Friday edition, local tabloid Blesk published photos of Prymula leaving a restaurant that should normally have been closed due to the current restrictions and state of lockdown, without wearing a mask.
The pictures published in Blesk took Czech social media by storm in the early hours of Friday, prompting a mix of outrage, mockery and frustration among the population.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) called for his Health Minister to voluntarily resign from his post, or else be dismissed. He added that he was already looking for a replacement and would discuss the issue with President Milos Zeman in the afternoon.
Oppositions politicians also joined growing popular anger and urged Prymula to step down, accusing him of hypocrisy, while Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib (Pirate Party) said the municipality would launch an investigation into the matter.
Later that day, Prymula dismissed the accusations and argued he didn’t break any rules.
“I stand here looking like a person who is preaching water but drinking wine”, he told reporters during a press conference. “Based on the photos that appeared in Blesk today, it looks like I broke some rules. I’m seriously saying that I did not”.
Prymula said that he was not breaking lockdown regulations, but was meeting in a private setting with Jaroslav Faltynek, head of ANO’s parliamentary group and first vice-president of the ruling party. On Friday morning, Faltynek said he had arranged the meeting in the restaurant, whose owner he knew well, apologizing for the misstep but adding that no one was put at risk.
An epidemiologist and former head of the Central Crisis Staff, Roman Prymula was appointed Czech Minister of Health only a month ago after the sudden resignation of his predecessor, Adam Vojtech (ANO). He has long advocated for implementing tougher measures to fight the spread of COVID-19, and oversaw the introduction, earlier this week, of a second lockdown.
Main photo credit: Czech Ministry of Health