Czech Republic: Ex-president unremorseful after breaking COVID rules by visiting restaurant

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By Euronews
Vaclav Klaus has previously addresses crowds at anti-restriction demonstrations in Prague.
Vaclav Klaus has previously addresses crowds at anti-restriction demonstrations in Prague.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Susan Walsh - FILE

The former president of the Czech Republic has admitted to breaking the country's strict COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

Václav Klaus was pictured without a face mask entering a restaurant in Prague on Tuesday, in photos published by the Czech daily, Blesk. 

The newspaper reported the 79-year-old spent more than an hour in the establishment, while his security staff stood at the entrance.

Bars and restaurants in the country are closed under strict restrictions due to the health crisis, and can only serve takeaway food through windows.

In a statement to Blesk, a spokesperson for the restaurant in Prague described Klaus as "our loyal customer", who had brought food with him in a box to the restaurant and had only entered to use the toilet.

"I don't think it has a bad effect on the public," Klaus said in a statement on his website. "It is up to each person to behave as they see fit."

Klaus instead pointed the finger at others in the Czech Republic who had violated restrictions by visiting closed restaurants.

"I'm not the one who preaches water and drinks wine, like some politicians who broke their own rules by visiting a restaurant," said Klaus.

"Yes, it is a form of civil disobedience from me."

In October, then-Czech Health Minister Roman Prymula was asked to resign from his post after he was pictured leaving a Prague restaurant that should have been closed

Prymula had led the country's response to the pandemic during the spring, but Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš described his minister's behaviour as "unacceptable".

Meanwhile, Klaus has repeatedly opposed the Czech government's regulations to limit the spread on COVID-19 and addressed thousands of demonstrators in the capital on Sunday at a lockdown march.

Teachers, doctors, and unions are among those in the country that have condemned the restrictions, calling them chaotic and ineffective. Many attending the demonstrations did not wear face masks or respect social distancing rules.

Speaking to the crowd, Klaus said the restrictions were not helping and had devastated people's lives and economy.

"I have been criticising these rules from the beginning," the former president stated, adding "we must not accept existing and constantly extended orders and prohibitions."

The former economist ended his term in office in 2013 after a presidency marred by his controversial opinions, such as the denial of climate change.