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Babis told journalists at a press conference at 11am on Friday morning that he had asked for Roman Prymula’s resignation as Health Minister, following an evening meeting at a Prague restaurant with several attendees, all of whom were without masks. At a press conference at 13:30 on Friday, Prymula said that he had not done anything seriously wrong, and refused to resign. Photo: Vlada.cz Archive.

Czech Rep., Oct 23 (BD) – Health Minister Roman Prymula has refused to resign, despite apparent breaches of his own anti-coronavirus public health guidelines on Wednesday evening that have provoked widespread criticism from across the Czech Republic. The minister was responding to an ultimatum announced earlier by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, that he should either resign, or face being fired. ANO Deputy leader Jaroslav Faltynek was also present at the meeting in a Prague restaurant, and he has agreed to resign from his position at Babis’s request.

“We must lead by example,” said Babis. “Such a mistake cannot be excused. I don’t care what Minister Prymula and Mr. Faltynek did there, who they invited there and why. We can’t preach water and drink wine. I think that the Minister of Health should lead by example.”

Babis said that the events of Wednesday evening were inexcusable, and he had therefore asked Prymula to resign. “If he doesn’t, I’ll dismiss him. I asked Mr Faltynek to resign as First Vice-President of ANO. I apologize to everyone, it is unacceptable,” he added.

Earlier on Friday morning, Faltynek apologised in the Chamber of Deputies, and took responsibility for organising the meeting at Rio’s restaurant in Prague-Vysehrad, which is owned by one of his friends.

In remarks to Respekt magazine earlier this morning, in his first public comments after the news broke, Prymula said he did not think he had done anything seriously wrong, as the meeting was private in a closed room at the pub, and that his mask was only removed while he was walking to the car, but that would “happily resign if the public wished.” At the press conference, he reiterated these comments and said that he would not resign by himself. The decision now rests with the Prime Minister.

Mayor of Prague Zdenek Hrib announced on Twitter that Prague City Hall will launch administrative proceedings into the apparent breach of government public health guidelines. According to the police, the relevant authorities to investigate the incident are Prague City Hall and the Regional Hygiene Office.

According to Babis, there are two candidates being considered as replacement Health Minister, and the final decision will be made in time for a meeting with President Zeman at 4pm this afternoon in Lany, with the new minister to be at work on Monday. Previous Health Minister Adam Vojtech was ruled out by the Prime Minister. Babis is said to have contacted the managers of various Czech hospitals in connection with the role.

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