Czech Republic bans spirit sales after poisonings

The Czech Republic has banned sales of spirits over 20% after a spate of poisonings from illegal alcohol.

The ban began late on Friday (14 September) and by Sunday (16 September) the Ministry of Health had reported 20 deaths and 36 people in a critical condition in hospital due to drinking spirits laced with methanol.

Czech health minister, Leos Heger, told the CT24 show: “No easing of this ban can be even discussed yet, but we hope it won’t last for months.”

The ban has been implemented across the on- and off-trades. It began due to poisoning cases the north-east of the country and then spread to Prague.

Poland instituted a 30-day ban on imports from the Czech Republic on Sunday and implemented tests to ensure that Czech alcohol was safe.

There are concerns that the longer the ban lasts the greater the risk of increased boot-legging, as well as a drop in spirits revenues, which currently account for some 750 million koruna (£24.7m) a year in tax.

No distillery connected with the illegal alcohol has yet been found but 22 individuals have been arrested on charges of bottling and distribution.

However, production and distribution are only counted as misdemeanours under Czech law and so only those convicted of selling can be prosecuted.

A change in the law is also expected.

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