COVID-positive Czech president appoints new PM from plexiglass cubicle

Czech President Milos Zeman, separated by a transparent wall after testing positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), appoints Civic Democratic Party (ODS) leader Petr Fiala as the new prime minister, at the Lany Chateau, near Prague, Czech Republic November 28, 2021. Roman Vondrous/Pool via REUTERS
Czech President Milos Zeman appointed the leader of a centre-right 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 centre and centre-right 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 that is threatening to overwhelm hospitals 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.

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 againt 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.