by Jan Flemr
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AFP) — Czech President Milos Zeman returned to hospital hours after being released Thursday as he tested positive for Covid-19, his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said in a statement.
Zeman was expected to appoint centre-right leader Petr Fiala as prime minister on Friday, but Ovcacek said his programme would now be put on hold.
The 77-year-old veteran leftwinger was hospitalised on October 10, a day after a general election, and treated for liver problems that doctors have suggested could be cirrhosis.
Zeman left Prague’s Military University Hospital (UVN) for home care at his Lany chateau residence just west of Prague on Thursday morning.
But on Thursday afternoon, Zeman “was tested for Covid-19 within the standards of the home care provider. Unfortunately, the result was positive,” Ovcacek said.
“The president’s program will be suspended while he undergoes treatment for Covid-19,” he added as Zeman was returned to the UVN.
Local media said Zeman, who had received three doses of a Covid vaccine, showed no symptoms of the disease.
Zeman was due to appoint Fiala on Friday, but the infection has put the ceremony off indefinitely.
Fiala is the chairman of the right-wing Civic Democratic Party, which teamed up with the centrist Christian Democrats and the centre-right TOP 09 party to form the Together alliance that won the October election.
Together they narrowly defeated the populist ANO movement of outgoing billionaire Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
Record Covid infections
The alliance then joined forces with a centrist grouping of the Mayors and Independents and the Pirate Party to clinch a majority of 108 votes in the 200-seat parliament.
The five parties put together a government while Zeman, who would normally have mediated the post-election talks, was in hospital.
Zeman, who is to name the prime minister and then the government under the constitution, said he had a problem with one person in Fiala’s cabinet, raising that the pro-Russian Zeman might insist on a change.
But Zeman’s latest hospitalisation has delayed things further at a time when the Czech Republic, an EU member of 10.7 million people, is grappling with record daily growths in Covid-19 infections.
The Czech health ministry registered 18,004 new cases on Wednesday after a record-high 25,877 the day before.
The spike led the outgoing Babis government to announce new restrictions on Thursday, including the closure of restaurants, bars and discos at night, as well as Christmas markets in their entirety.
Hospitals in the east are running out of capacity and some have begun to move patients to less congested facilities elsewhere in the country.
© Agence France-Presse