Czech president swears in Petr Fiala as PM behind glass screen

The Czech president, Milos Zeman, has appointed the leader of a centre-right alliance, Petr Fiala, as prime minister in a ceremony he performed from a plexiglass cubicle after testing positive for Covid-19.

Fiala leads a bloc of five centre and centre-right opposition parties that won an election in October, ousting the incumbent Andrej Babiš and his allies.

The election took place shortly after details emerged of Babiš’s overseas financial dealings in the Pandora Papers. The 67 year-old populist billionaire has denied wrongdoing.

The new government will have to tackle a wave of coronavirus infections that is threatening to overwhelm hospitals and an energy crisis, after the collapse of a large electricity provider. The coalition has also said it plans to rework the 2022 state budget to reduce a large deficit.

“The new government has a very complicated time ahead and many challenges … I want it to be a government of change for the future,” Fiala said at a televised news conference, adding that he expected his cabinet to be appointed in mid-December.

The new prime minister also called on people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and praised medical staff amid rising cases.

Only 58.5% of Czechs are vaccinated against coronavirus. The European Union average is 65.8%, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Zeman performed the inauguration ceremony from a plexiglass cubicle after testing positive for coronavirus. Zeman, who came in a wheelchair escorted by a medic in full protective gear, contracted the virus after a six-week stay in hospital for an unrelated illness.

The outgoing government toughened measures on Thursday, including a ban on Christmas markets.


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