COVID-19-Positive Czech President Appoints New Prime Minister From Plexiglass Cubicle

PRAGUE—Czech President Milos Zeman appointed the leader of an opposition alliance Petr Fiala as prime minister on Sunday in a ceremony he performed from a plexiglass cubicle after testing positive for COVID-19.

Fiala leads a bloc of five opposition parties that won an election in October, ousting the incumbent premier Andrej Babis and his allies.

The new government will have to tackle a new wave of coronavirus infections 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 news conference.

Petr Fiala
Newly appointed Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, a former political scientist, gives a press statement in Lany, west of Prague, Czech Republic, on Nov. 28, 2021. (Milan Kammermayer/AFP via Getty Images)

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 as cases are on the rise.

Opponents of vaccination and government’s anti-coronavirus measures such as a ban on Christmas markets gathered in their thousands in Prague later on Sunday for a protest rally.

Only 58.5 percent of Czechs are vaccinated against coronavirus. This compares to a European Union average of 65.8 percent, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Zeman performed the inauguration ceremony from a plexiglass cubicle after testing positive for coronavirus. Zeman, who arrived 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.