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Czech president appoints new prime minister in ceremony behind glass

Czech President Milos Zeman has appointed Petr Fiala as the new prime minister of the country.

Mr Fiala, the leader of the Civic Democratic Party, was sworn in during an unusual ceremony in which the Zeman sat in a plexiglass cubicle after testing positive for Covid-19.

Mr Fiala ousted the incumbent premier Andrej Babis and his allies, leading a bloc of five centre and centre-right opposition parties in the October election.

The new prime minister has called on citizens to get vaccinated against the virus, and has praised medical staff who are battling a rise in cases.

Currently, only 58.5% of Czechs are vaccinated against coronavirus, in comparison to an average of 65.8% across the European Union, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Under Fiala, the new government faces several issues, including a new wave of Covid-19 infections and an energy crisis after one of the Czech Republic’s largest energy suppliers, Bohemia Energy, collapsed this year. The provider had around 900,000 customers.

The government have also stated that they plan to reduce a large deficit by revising the 2022 state budget.

Mr Fiala spoke about the new government’s challenges, stating: “The new government has a very complicated time ahead and many challenges... I want it to be a government of change for the future.”

The inauguration ceremony was attended by President Zeman, who sat in a plexiglass cubicle in a wheelchair, and was escorted by a medic in full protective gear. President Zeman contracted Covid-19 after spending six weeks in hospital for an unrelated illness.