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Czech President Milos Zeman was readmitted to hospital after testing positive for Covid-19 just hours after being released after more than a month of treatment for an unrelated illness.

Zeman, 77, was released from Prague Military Hospital for home care on Thursday morning, but an ambulance brought him back that evening after testing positive at the presidential retreat in Lany, west of Prague.

The hospitalization means Zeman will not nominate center-right opposition leader Petr Fiala as prime minister for the time being, which was scheduled for Friday.

“The president’s program will be on hold pending treatment of COVID-19,” his office said in a statement.

The news of his hospitalization came as the Czech Republic reported its highest number of daily cases – 27,717 new infections – since the start of the pandemic, while the government on Thursday ordered bars and clubs to close at 22 hours and banned Christmas markets.

Zeman has been vaccinated against the coronavirus three times and local media have quoted anonymous sources as saying he has no symptoms.

The president had already been hospitalized on October 10 for complications from a chronic illness that his office never specified but that doctors called liver disease. Zeman is a heavy smoker and drinker who suffers from diabetes. He has difficulty walking and uses a wheelchair.

He went to the hospital a day after a parliamentary election in which Zeman’s allies, led by Prime Minister Andrej Babis, lost to a center-right coalition and the president’s influence over parliament took been mined.

Zeman was first treated in an intensive care unit and doctors said the prognosis was uncertain. Parliament prepared to debate the removal of his presidential office, but after several weeks the president’s condition improved.

He had said he would respect the election result and appoint center-right leader Fiala as prime minister on Friday, with the Cabinet appointment to follow later.

Zeman has 15 months left for his second and final five-year term.

The Czech Republic has recorded an average of 1,516 daily cases of Covid-19 per million population over the past week, the third highest in the world behind Slovakia and Austria. About 58.5% of the Czech population have been vaccinated, below the EU average of 65.8%, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

Reuters / AP


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