published: 18.09.2012, 14:13 | updated: 18.09.2012 14:17:47
Prague/Oslo - The production and distribution of alcohol in the Czech Republic is not safe yet, and this is why the ban on the sale of spirits containing more than 20 percent of alcohol continues, Health Minister Leos Heger (TOP 09) told reporters after a meeting of the emergency committee today.
The Health Ministry declared the ban across the country on Friday evening in reaction to a high number of methanol poisoning cases caused by the consumption of bootleg alcohol.v
"It is out of question that the ban could be lifted in the following days," Heger said, adding that the number of methanol poisoning cases is still rising.
The government set up the emergency committee last Wednesday to deal with the current series of deaths from bootleg alcohol.
The committee today discussed how the alcohol bottles could possibly return to shops and restaurants.
Some 20 million bottles with hard liquor have been in storage facilities since the ban on liquor sales was declared. It is not certain yet whether they would have to be destroyed.
Norwegian doctor Knut Erik Hovda, who brought the fomepizole highly efficient medicine for methanol poisoning to the Czech Republic last week, expressed concern about the current situation in the Czech Republic calling it urgent since methanol poisoning was spreading quickly.
The Czech authorities do not have the methanol affair under control and the situation in the country si chaotic, Hovda told the daily Verdens Gang.
More than 20 people died after consuming tainted alcohol and tens of others are hospitalised with methanol poisoning symptoms in the Czech Republic.
"Preventive checks and investigation are continuing intensively," deputy interior minister Jaroslav Hruska said at a press conference.
A total of 23 people have been accused in connection with the illegal production and distribution of poisonous alcohol. Policemen carried out more than 40 home searches.
The investigators have progressed and approached "big fish" among alcohol distributors. The police have uncovered large barrels with alcohol containing over 30 percent of methanol, Hruska said.
Firefighters found 260 litres of alcohol in barrels in which methyl alcohol content exceeded 20-30 percent, Heger said calling it a certain "mass destruction weapon."
The customs authority seized 94,000 stamps for alcohol bottles that were designated for an official liquor producer but were to be used for other purposes probably.
An illegal bottling plant was revealed in the vicinity of Cheb, west Bohemia, including equipment, bottles and stamps that will be checked, local police spokeswoman Katerina Boehmova said in the morning.
Inspectors have checked 40,000 samples of alcoholic beverages in retail chains. One of them exceeded limits for methanol content, deputy agriculture minister Martin Hlavacek said.
His office was assigned to negotiate with liquor producers about possible changes in the partial prohibition or its abolition.
Hovda is also worried over the ban on liquor sales in the Czech Republic.
"Tourism industry is dependent on alcohol sales. In this situation people are obtaining alcohol by other means and problems are only escalating," said Hovda, who works in the Toxicological Institute of the Oslo Teaching Hospital.
Brussels is also dealing with the Czech methanol affair. The European organisation for consumer protection is to discuss the situation.
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