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Czech Republic Bans Sale Of Hard Alcohol Amid Poisonings

Health authorities expressed hope that the ban would last days, but reports said it could take weeks to root out the cause of poisonings that have already taken more than a dozen lives.
The Czech Republic has banned the sale of hard alcohol as it battles a wave of deaths caused by methanol poisonings.

Health Minister Leos Heger said the measure was taken as the death toll from the poisonings reached 19 and the first person was hospitalized in the capital, Prague.

The ban extends to beverages that are 20 percent alcohol or more and affects all shops, supermarkets, restaurants, and bars in the country.

The measure could last days or even weeks, authorities suggested.

Dozens of people have been hospitalized, and some remain in critical condition after drinking vodka and rum laced with methanol.

The problem appears largely centered in the northeastern part of the country.

Czechs are among the biggest consumers of alcohol in the world, although much of that comes from beer sales in the country, where the pilsner-style pale lagers that take their name from the city of Plzen are popular.

Based on reporting by AP and CTK