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    3rd Health Minister Fired in Virus-Hit Czech Republic | World News

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    By KAREL JANICEK, Associated Press

    PRAGUE (AP) — Czech Prime Minster Andrej Babis fired his health minister on Wednesday, the third health minister who has been ousted during the pandemic in one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries.

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    Jan Blatny was replaced by Petr Arenberger, the director of Prague’s University Hospital Vinohrady, who was sworn in by President Milos Zeman.

    The move opens the way for a possible use of Russian and Chinese vaccines, which have not been approved by the European Union’s drug regulator.

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    Babis repeatedly criticized Blatny over his handling of the pandemic, including imposing strict conditions for the use of experimental drugs to treat COVID-19 patients.

    Blatny was also under fire from Zeman, an ally of Babis who is known for his pro-Russian and pro-Chinese views. Zeman asked the prime minister last month to replace Blatny over his refusal to allow the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine because it has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

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    “Unfortunately, your predecessor has blocked the process,” Zeman told Arenberger at a ceremony, blaming Blatney for those who have died.

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    Blatny dismissed such criticism. He said he allowed use of only approved vaccines to assure people “they are safe, tested and really work. And that’s the same with the drugs against COVID.”

    “My decisions were always based on scientific data and analysis,” Blatny said.

    Babis previously said Sputnik V might be an option for the country due to a slow rollout of the approved vaccines from the EU.

    Prymula had replaced his predecessor, Adam Vojtech, in the post on Sept. 21 to enable a different approach to the pandemic amid surging infections.

    The latest firing comes as coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have been on a decline, with new daily cases at 5,522 on Tuesday, the lowest number on a weekday since Dec 14.

    The nation of 10.7 million has reported 1.65 million confirmed cases with 27,329 deaths.

    Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

    Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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