Czech President Zeman back in hospital, now with COVID-19

PRAGUE – Czech President Milos Zeman was hospitalized again late Thursday after testing positive for COVID-19, just hours after being discharged after more than a month of treatment for an unspecified illness.

The presidential office said Zeman was being tested after arriving at his official residence in Lany, west of Prague, in the afternoon. His official program was postponed and it was unclear whether Zeman would be able to swear in the country’s new prime minister as scheduled for Friday – a process that had long been postponed due to his previous hospitalization.

He had been released from the Prague military hospital earlier in the day.

Zeman, 77, was rushed to hospital on October 10, a day after the House of Representatives elections, to be treated in an intensive care unit. His condition was attributed to an unspecified chronic illness.

The hospital said Thursday it would have preferred Zeman to have stayed in the hospital, but accepted his decision to leave because of a “significant improvement” in his condition.

The president planned to recover in Lany.

Zeman is a heavy smoker and drinker who has suffered from diabetes. He has difficulty walking and uses a wheelchair.

As president, Zeman plays a key role in forming a new government after the election. On Friday, he was due to swear in Petr Fiala, the leader of a coalition that won the election, as the country’s new prime minister.

A liberal-conservative three-party coalition known as Together, made up of the Civic Democratic Party, Christian Democrats and the TOP 09 party, led the election with 27.8% of the vote.

Together they formed a coalition with a liberal coalition made up of the Pirate Party and STAN – a group of mayors and independent candidates – which came in third place with 15.6%.

The new partnership will have 108 seats in the 200-seat lower house of Parliament, relegating populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis and his centrist ANO (YES) movement to the opposition.

The five parties have signed a deal to rule together. It was not immediately clear when Zeman would appoint Fiala and his entire government.

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