The Czech president, Milos Zeman, has appointed the leader of a centre-right alliance, Petr Fiala, as prime minister in a ceremony he performed from a plexiglass cubicle after testing positive for Covid-19.
Fiala leads a bloc of five centre and centre-right opposition parties that won an election in October, ousting the incumbent Andrej Babiš and his allies.
The new government will have to tackle a 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 televised news conference, adding that 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 amid rising cases.
Only 58.5% of Czechs are vaccinated against coronavirus. The European Union average is 65.8%, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Zeman performed the inauguration ceremony from a plexiglass cubicle after testing positive for coronavirus. Zeman, who came 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.
The outgoing government toughened measures on Thursday, including a ban on Christmas markets.