Czech President Milos Zeman appointed the leader of a center-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 center and center-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% of Czechs are vaccinated against the coronavirus. This compares to a European Union average of 65.8%, 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.