On Tuesday, 48 days after being appointed, Minister of Health Petr Arenberger announced his resignation after he faced criticism for submitting incorrect information about his property.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš stated that Arenberger would be replaced by one of his predecessors, Adam Vojtěch, who ran the office in the first months of the coronavirus epidemic and left the government last September.
President Miloš Zeman appointed the “old-new” minister on Wednesday. Since the start of the epidemic, this is the fourth change at the head of the health ministry.
While opposition politicians criticize Vojtěch’s return, some representatives of the medical community welcome the comeback, saying that Vojtěch already knows the office and proved himself as the health minister.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, Arenberger said that the only mistake he made was incorrectly filling out his asset declaration. According to Arenberger, he has been experiencing a “media lynching” in the last week. The media reported that he owns over 160 properties, doubted the lease of one of them to the Vinohrady hospital, and wrote about millions of korunas he gained in profits from clinical studies.
“I pay taxes properly, and my tax returns are in order. Unfortunately, I filled in the asset declaration incorrectly, thus creating space for creative speculation,” stated Arenberger.
He had previously apologized for the mistake, which he said was only a misdemeanor. According to Babiš, Arenberger decided to resign due to pressure on his family.
The Czech prime minister also added that he talked to Vojtěch about a possible return to the government last week. He hopes that Vojtech will lead the ministry until the resignation of the government after the October elections.
Vojtěch became minister of health in December 2017 when he was 31 years old. He resigned last September, stating that he had been overly burdened by managing the ministry during the first wave of the pandemic. He also faced criticism for allowing the summer easing of coronavirus measures, thus paving the way for the rapid onset of the second, much more tragic wave of the epidemic.
He was replaced by epidemiologist Roman Prymula, who resigned after photographs of his visit to a restaurant that should have been closed under government restriction appeared. At the end of October, he was thus succeeded by pediatric hematologist Jan Blatný. He left the office in early April after criticism from the prime minister and the president. While Babiš questioned his lackluster approach to new Covid-19 drugs, Zeman reproached him for refusing the use of the unapproved Sputnik vaccine.
Title image: Czech Republic’s Health Minister Adam Vojtech speaks with the media as he arrives for an extraordinary meeting of EU health ministers in Brussels to discuss the Covid-19 virus outbreak, Friday, March 6, 2020. Fearing a possible shortage in medicine and protective masks, health ministers from the European Union are trying to boost their collective response to the novel coronavirus outbreak during an emergency meeting. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)