published: 16.09.2012, 14:58 | updated: 16.09.2012 16:09:41
Prague - The Czech Health Ministry is looking for ways of easing the nationwide ban on the sales of drinks containing more than 20 percent of alcohol, introduced on Friday evening, Health Minister Leos Heger (TOP 09) said in a discussion programme on Prima Family television today.
He said the definition of safe alcohol is one possibility.
Twenty people have died of methanol poisoning in the Czech Republic since early September, tens of others have been admitted to hospital and some of those who survived have gone blind.
The police have accused more than 20 people in this connection.
Heger said there are three ways of easing prohibition.
Besides the measure mentioned above, Heger said the measure could start being moderated from nationwide to local or to some kinds of alcohol only.
Heger said this would also require the precise definition of false stamps or labels, and people should be told how to recognise that the stamp was used repeatedly.
Heger said in the Questions of Vaclav Moravec on Czech Television (CT) later today no one would dare to say now perhaps expensive foreign alcohol that matures several years, such as whisky, may be safe alcohol.
To define the dividing border between safe and dangerous alcohol will be very difficult from the legal point of view, Heger said.
Another possibility naturally is that there are no more poisoned people or that the police uncover the source and map and clean up the distribution network, Heger said.
He said, however, the nationwide ban on drinks with more than 20 percent of alcohol will definitely be in force for several more days.
Heger said on CT the worst scenarios of the crisis plan count with prohibition lasting even several months.
"I hope this will not be so," he said.
Opposition Social Democrat (CSSD) MP Jeronym Tejc said in the programme he would be in favour of greater regulation of hard liquor sales.
He proposes, among others, a limitation of the maximal packaging in which alcoholic drinks can be sold.
Now people can buy a six-litre barrel. This should be reduced to maximally one or two litres, Tejc said.
He said another possibility of preventing illicit alcohol from being sold would be the duty for all alcohol sellers, including restaurants, having a licence.
Deputy Prime Minister Karolina Peake (LIDEM) said she would not support regulation in the form of licences, but she would prefer unification of control that is now participated in by more bodies, mainly the retail and food inspections and the customs authority.
Heger said alcohol could also be burdened with a higher tax that he said is still relatively low compared with other European countries.
Heger said the current tragedy could accelerate legislative changes that would reduce the availability of alcohol in the Czech Republic.
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