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Czech government to ease ban on liquor sales

28 september 2012, 13:02
0
Photo courtesy of blog.heartland.org
Photo courtesy of blog.heartland.org
The Czech government said Wednesday it would ease a ban on liquor sales in force since September 14 following a wave of methanol poisoning that has claimed at least 25 lives, AFP reports.

"As of tomorrow (Thursday), it will be possible to sell and consume spirits with alcohol content over 20 percent produced before January 1, 2012," Prime Minister Petr Necas told reporters.

"It is also possible to sell newly-produced liquor with new excise stamps," he added.

The Czech Republic -- which has the world's second highest adult alcohol intake after Moldova -- banned first domestic liquor sales and then spirits exports this month after dozens of people had died or been hospitalised following methanol poisoning.

On Monday, Czech police said they had arrested two suspected masterminds of the bootlegging operation.

The two men are alleged to have concocted a lethal mixture of methanol and ethanol for public consumption at the turn of August and September and released it onto the Czech market.

They face maximum life sentences if found guilty as charged.

Forty-two suspects have been detained in total, and of these 22 were held in custody on Monday, police said.

Czech media have put the number of casualties at 26 by Wednesday.

Dozens of people were in hospitals across the Czech Republic Wednesday, some of them placed in artificial comas. Others have gone blind.

Police said Monday that up to 15,000 litres of harmful spirits were still somewhere on the Czech market.

The government has started to print new excise stamps to mark safe spirits.

More than 20 million litres of spirits pulled off the market will have to be tested before being reintroduced on to the market, while opened bottles in restaurants will have to be destroyed, the government said.

"There's an exception for expensive alcohol -- bar owners can have those bottles checked and, if methanol is ruled out, the bottle will be considered clean," said Health Minister Leos Heger.

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