PRAGUE — Czech Health Minister Petr Arenberger resigned on Tuesday following media revelations that he had failed to declare properties and income when he took over the post on April 7.
In formally announcing his decision, Arenberger said he had “experienced a media lynching” and described his incorrect property declaration as a “mistake.” He has also come under criticism for dismissing an interdisciplinary group of experts that had been advising the health ministry, with the reasoning that infection and death numbers are far lower now.
He becomes the fourth Czech health minister to lose his post during the pandemic. He will be replaced by Adam Vojtěch, who was health minister when the epidemic began.
Vojtěch had held the post from December 2017 to last September, when he resigned due to a steep rise in cases.
The news was first broken by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in Brussels, at a summit of EU leaders. He said that Arenberger hadn’t understood that requirements for “property declarations are stricter at the ministerial level.”
He also praised Vojtěch, insisting that he was sorry to see him leave the government last year. “I think he was a very good minister,” Babiš added.
That comment glossed over the fact that he and Vojtěch clashed last August after Vojtěch recommended that Czechs wear masks in stores and on public transport to halt the spread of the virus. At the time, Babiš publicly criticized the idea and disparaged Vojtěch as someone who “is not an action minister, such as a crisis manager.”
Vojtěch then backed down and the epidemic quickly spread, eventually leading to the Czech Republic to suffer from one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls on the planet.