The Czech Republic has its third health minister in just six weeks as the country grapples with a worsening coronavirus outbreak.
Jan Blatný replaces Roman Prymula, who was photographed leaving a restaurant that should have been closed under his own COVID-19 restrictions.
Prymula denied any wrongdoing, saying he went through the restaurant to a private space for a meeting, but offered his resignation to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
The new health minister was formerly the deputy director of the University Hospital in Brno — the second largest Czech city — but has no political experience.
Blatný’s appointment was announced on Twitter by Jiri Ovcacek, spokesman for Czech President Milos Zeman.
The Czech Republic is one of the worst affected EU countries for the number of new deaths and infections per 100,000 inhabitants.
A total of 297,013 confirmed cases have been registered in the country, including more than half that figure in the last two weeks.
Prymula was appointed in September to lead the country’s response to the health crisis, just as the number of infections began to soar.
In a press release, the Czech Prime Minister thanked his former health chief and said Blatný’s main task is to “stabilise the current epidemiological situation and ensure the capacity of hospitals”.
“The main task is to protect people over 65 and the sick in nursing homes, social care, etc,” said Babiš, who also stated that the government had ordered two million antigen tests.
Moreover, the Czech parliament has approved a government plan to allow up to 300 military medical personnel from NATO and EU countries to help with the coronavirus.
The first group of 28 medical staff is expected from the US National Guard.
Blatný has also emphasised the need to change the perception of the pandemic in Czech society.
“Let us please turn the feeling of fear into respect together,” he said in a press release.
“Fear paralyses us, and what’s even worse, it divides … if we change that into respect, we can gain strength.”
Blatný also pledged that any decisions taken by the ministry of health will be based on coherent data and expert opinion.
The new health minister also faces challenges in improving the Czech Republic medical education industry, to keep young doctors from moving abroad.