The Prime Minister of the Czech Republic called on his Minister of Health to resign or be fired after he broke strict government restrictions to slow a record surge of coronavirus infections and visited a restaurant in Prague.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis said he would meet with the president of the country later in the day on Friday to discuss a possible replacement for the minister, Roman Prymula.
Babis said, "There is no solution other than his resignation from the post." "It ought not to have happened."
Babis said, "If we want people to comply with the rules ... it is us who have to set an example." "We can not preach and drink wine and water."
Prymula met with Jaroslav Faltynek, deputy head of senior government ANO, or YES, on Wednesday night, a movement led by Babis in a Prague restaurant, the Blesk tabloid daily said. Photographs published in the paper indicated that Prymula did not wear a compulsory face mask either.
Because of the pandemic, restaurants are closed in the Czech Republic, and it was not immediately clear whether the establishment was open or whether the owner only allowed Prymula and Faltynek to dine there.
The exposure has shocked the nation, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. The government has approved tight restrictions at Prymula 's request to slow the surge that is threatening the entire health system.
The Social Democrats, the junior government coalition party, joined the opposition to demand the resignation of Prymula, calling his behavior "absolutely unacceptable."
Prymula denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down, intensifying the crisis even further. He said he was invited to participate in a meeting with the director of a hospital and only went to a private space where it took place through the restaurant.
"I broke nothing," he said.
Faltynek apologized for the meeting and said that he had asked Prymula to meet to discuss a special parliamentary meeting to approve a plan for NATO military medical staff to come to the Czech Republic to assist their local colleagues.
Prymula was a deputy health minister before he became the health minister, who led the government's reaction to the coronavirus pandemic for a time in the spring.
Compared to hard-hit Western European countries such as Italy, Spain, and Britain, the country recorded a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases and deaths then.
As a government health care envoy, Prymula, an epidemiologist, later assumed a different post.
He was appointed as a "crisis manager" only a month ago to lead the response of the country to the pandemic as new infections were on a steep rise.
On Sept. 12, Prymula became the health minister, and in an effort to slow the steep rise of infections, he imposed a series of tough regulations. There are closed bars, restaurants, and schools, as well as theatres, cinemas, zoos, and many other locations. There is a prohibition on professional sports competitions.
Just hours before the restaurant incident, Prymula and Babis announced that the nation was returning to a lockdown like in the spring with new restrictions limiting movement, closing many shops and services, and limiting two public meetings.
Prymula said if the measures were not taken, the health system would collapse around Nov. 10, Prymula said.
"He recently tweeted in one of his videos, calling the current situation dramatic:" I'd like to call all of you to stay at home, if possible.
On Thursday, the day-to-day increase in new confirmed cases reached 14,151, the second largest after a nearly 15,000 record set a day earlier. 223,065 positive cases have been confirmed in the country, about a third of them in the last seven days, while 1,845 have died.
With 735 in serious condition, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is 4,777.
Over the last two weeks, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen from 32.81 new cases per 100,000 individuals on Oct. 7 to 92.88 new cases per 100,000 individuals on Wednesday.