The Czech Republic has banned the sale of hard alcohol after a series of fatalities linked to vodka or rum spiked with methanol. The drinks have been involved in the deaths of at least 19 people.
Health Minister Leos Heger announced on television on Friday that the temporary but indefinite ban would apply to liquor with an alcohol content higher than 20 percent.
The prohibition covers restaurants, bars, hotels and stores. Kiosks and markets have not been allowed to sell spirits alcohol content higher than 30 percent since Wednesday.
"Operators of food and beverage businesses ... are banned from offering for sale (and) selling ... liquor containing alcohol of 20 percent and more ... until further notice," Heger said.
Methanol can cause illness in small quantities and blindness or death in larger doses. In addition to the deaths, dozens of people have been hospitalized, some in critical condition.
Though the problem appears largely centered in the Moravia-Silesia region in the northeast, one person was recently hospitalized in Prague, the capital.
mkg / rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa)