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Czech Republic bans liquor in bid to curb methanol deaths

Czech Republic bans liquor in bid to curb methanol deaths
The Czech Republic has prohibited the sale of hard liquor after 19 people died and dozens were poisoned by methanol-laced bootleg vodka and rum.
­The ban, issued by the Health Ministry on Friday, covers the sale of any drink containing more than 20 percent alcohol. The prohibition is temporary, but no indication was given when it might end.

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