Prague, Czech Republic – Talk about an awkward first day with your new boss: after days of tip-toeing around the issue, the Czech government’s newly-appointed Health Minister Jan Blatny admitted signing a petition calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
After the media reported that Jan Blatny had once signed a petition of the Milion Moments for Democracy civic movement urging PM Babis to step down over allegations of fraud and corruption, the new Czech Health Minister avoided clarifying whether this was true or not, instead arguing that someone else might have signed the document using his name.
But Blatny, who attempted to defuse the controversy saying he had been chosen for his professional medical expertise, eventually admitted this week-end that he himself had signed the petition calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Babis. He refused to say whether or not he still thought the same way.
The Czech Premier also commented on the issue, saying the government’s top priority was to manage the COVID-19 pandemic regardless of political and partisan affiliation. “There is really no time for politicking”, he wrote in a text message sent to the Czech News Agency (CTK).
A doctor by training and specialist in pediatric hematology, Jan Blatny previously served as the deputy-director of the Brno University Hospital, one of the top medical institutions in the country.
He was appointed Health Minister on Thursday last week by President Milos Zeman on the government’s proposal.
His nomination came only a few days after predecessor Roman Prymula was forced to resign for allegedly breaking the coronavirus restrictions put in place by his own Ministry.
The scandal erupted after local tabloid Blesk published photographs of Prymula coming out of a restaurant in Prague supposed to be closed due to COVID-19 lockdown regulations.
The pictures also showed the top epidemiologist, in office for barely a month, walking to a car without wearing a mask.
With one of the highest infection and death rates in Europe, the Czech Republic introduced a nationwide lockdown and night curfew last month. The state of emergency, initially due to expire on Tuesday, has been prolonged until November 20 by the Chamber of Deputies.
The government had initially asked for a month-long extension until December 3.
Main photo credit: Office of the Government of the Czech Republic