Coronavirus-sceptic former Czech president catches Covid

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Since the coronavirus pandemic began, former Czech president Vaclav Klaus (pictured September 2017) has repeatedly appeared in public without the mandatory face mask

Former Czech president Vaclav Klaus, who has recently made a splash by publicly defying government restrictions to stem the Covid-19 spread, has caught the disease, his spokesman said Tuesday.

"He wasn't feeling well and he tested positive for Covid this afternoon," Petr Macinka, spokesman for the Vaclav Klaus Institute think tank, told AFP.

"He underwent a scan and left for treatment at home," he added.

The Czech Republic currently has the highest per capita infection rate in the world and is second after neighbouring Slovakia for deaths, according to an AFP tally.

A former liberal economist and staunchly eurosceptic Czech prime minister, Klaus served as president in 2003-2013 after succeeding the late Czech anti-Communist hero and former dissident playwright Vaclav Havel.

During his term, he became famous for being the last politician in the EU to sign the bloc's crucial Lisbon Treaty.

Since the pandemic began, the 79-year-old Klaus has repeatedly appeared in public without the mandatory face mask, and in January he was handed a fine worth 10,000 crowns (387 euros, $470) for that.

In the same month, he delivered a speech at a rally against the restrictions, saying the government should know that "we have had enough of restrictions and instructions harming our lives".

He also stood up against Covid vaccination, prompting a response from his successor Milos Zeman, a veteran leftwinger and Klaus's former political foe.

"Get the vaccine, Vaclav, or you run the risk of catching Covid at your age," Zeman urged Klaus in a newspaper interview in January.