Czech Health Minister Roman Prymula says he is “prepared to face the consequences” after being photographed leaving a restaurant in Prague late on Wednesday night, just days after he announced a strict lockdown and pleaded with people to stay home.
The country is currently experiencing one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world in terms of new infection per capita. Restaurants in the Czech Republic have been closed for sit-down service since Wednesday, October 14. Take-away service is allowed, but only until 8 p.m.
The photos, published on Friday in the country’s top-selling tabloid newspaper Blesk, showed Prymula leaving the restaurant and entering his chauffeur-driven government car without a mask.
According to the rules that came into effect earlier this week, people in the Czech Republic must wear masks when in a car with people outside their households.
Jaroslav Faltynek, Prymula’s political ally and the parliamentary leader of the government ANO party, was also seen at the restaurant. He apologized in the Parliament on Friday.
Faltynek said he asked Prymula to meet with him to discuss the current coronavirus situation and stressed the restaurant was closed when the two men met there.
“We met Wednesday night in a closed restaurant, in the lounge, where we discussed these things over a coffee, and that’s it,” Faltynek said in the Parliament. When challenged by members of the opposition, he added: “Since I know the owner of the restaurant, I know it was only open until 8 p.m. He just allowed us to use the restaurant’s private lounge to talk about these things over a coffee.” “I apologize for breaching the trust [of the public],” he said.
A number of Czech politicians have called for Prymula to resign.
Speaking to the Czech weekly news magazine Respekt, Prymula said he didn’t think what he did was “too much”, but added that “if the public wants me to resign, I would.”
“I was here at the ministry until about 9:30 p.m., then I was invited to a meeting … it’s not true that I wasn’t wearing a mask, I went to the restaurant’s lounge wearing a mask. I left at around 11:30 p.m., I wasn’t wearing a mask but I put it on in the car.”
CNN has reached out to the Czech Health Ministry for comment.