A number of Czech politicians and influential figures are in hot water after attending a birthday party for businessman and former influential Social Democrat Peter Benda on the weekend which violated coronavirus measures, with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš calling their actions “unacceptable”.
The Chairman of the National Sports Agency, Milan Hnilička, has indicated he will resign as member of the Czech Parliament, resulting in the first casualty of the scandal.
The party at a hotel in the town of Teplice was also attended by the deputy chairman of the Czech Television board, Jiří Šlégr, former Prime Minister Jiří Paroubek, and the Liberec Region police director Vladislav Husák.
The Blesk daily, which exclusively reported on the party, wrote that the birthday party for the 50-year-old Teplice businessman, Benda, took place on Saturday evening at the Prince de Ligne Hotel. On Monday evening, the Radiožurnál radio station reported that the event was also attended by the police director of the Liberec Region, Vladislav Husák.
Minister of the Interior Jan Hamáček, and Police President Jan Švejdar called forHusák to accept personal responsibility for his actions.
According to photos obtained by Blesk, most of the guests did not wear face masks at the celebration. Around midnight, some of them left home in their cars or taxis while some — for example, Jiří Paroubek — spent the night in the hotel until Sunday, even though, based on the current coronavirus, hotels can be opened only for people on business trips or as a home office.
The organizer and the participants of the event violated several measures and thus could face a fine. The case is currently under investigation by the police. In the Czech Republic, the indoor areas of restaurants are currently closed while in public places, face masks and distancing are mandatory. A maximum of two people can meet at indoor and outdoor events, and the 9:00 p.m. curfew still applies.
“Such an event is a violation of government restrictions. Both the organizer and the participants face a fine,” Hamáček told Blesk.
Former hockey goalie and the ANO movement member Milan Hnilička said that he is fully aware of his responsibilities as a member of the governing coalition.
“That’s why, after the unnecessary mistake I made, I decided to resign from my position as MP. As for the post of head of the Sports Agency, I will wait to see how the sports environment approaches the whole matter,” he said.
Prime Minister and Chairman of ANO Andrej Babiš has also called on Hnilička to take responsibility for his actions.
“All participants, including the hotel where the event took place, must bear the consequences,” he wrote on Twitter.
This affair is not the first time the media has caught politicians or other public figures violating government regulations. In October, the Blesk daily photographed the then Minister of Health Roman Prymula leaving a closed restaurant where he met with the head of ANO deputies, Jaroslav Faltýnek, and other people. Shortly after, he was forced to resign.
Title image: The Chairman of the National Sports Agency Milan Hnilička (Twitter / Milan Hnilička)