Czech Republic bans hard liquor after bootleg booze kills 19

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The sale of hard liquor has been banned in the Czech Republic, after 19 people died and dozens were poisoned by methanol-laced bootleg vodka and rum.

­The ban, issued on Friday, covers the sale of any liquor containing over 20% (40 proof) alcohol. The prohibition is temporary, but no indication was given by the Health Ministry of when it might end.

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Many Czech cocktail bars put out signs informing patrons about the ban, while supermarkets cleared their shelves of liquor following the announcement.

The measure builds on a previous restriction ordered on Wednesday, which banned the sale of spirits by street vendors and market stalls. Smaller businesses could be hard hit by the prohibition if it continues indefinitely.

The move aims to to curb the worst outbreak of alcohol-related poisonings in the eastern European country in decades. The first deaths occurred last weekend in the Moravian-Silesian region, 350 kilometers east of Prague. Authorities were unable to identify the source of the deadly drinks.

In addition to killing 19 people, another two dozen victims were hospitalized in connection with the poisoned liquor, many in induced comas or suffering from blindness.

Czech authorities did not restrict alcohol exports, believing that only local distribution networks were affected by the outbreak. The country’s health ministry has contacted other nations over the matter as a precaution.
Michael Saba