Seat of the Czech Health Ministry at Palackého naměstí in Prague via Wikimedia / Björn Laczay

Czech government approves temporary bill raising Health Ministry’s powers

The Czech government has approved a temporary bill that would strengthen powers of the Health Ministry's

Prague, May 7 (CTK) – The Czech government approved a temporary bill on special measures that would strengthen and specify the Health Ministry’s powers during the coronavirus epidemic at its meeting today, Deputy PM and Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (Social Democrats, ČSSD) has told CTK.

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Health Minister Adam Vojtěch (for ANO) told the press conference after the government meeting that the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, would debate the bill in a regular procedure with shortened deadlines and not in the state of legislative emergency.

The legislation, with its effect limited by the end of the year, is to resolve the validity of the anti-coronavirus restrictions after the end of the state of national emergency that is to expire on May 17. However, the government plan of gradually lifting the lockdown measures ends on May 25.

The minority coalition cabinet of PM Andrej Babiš’s ANO and the ČSSD made no decision on another prolongation of the state of national emergency, Hamáček added.

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The key parts of the bill on extraordinary measures during the COVID-19 epidemic would be in force by the end of the year with the aim to temporarily complete the law on public health protection that will still include general provisions.

Under the draft legislation, the Health Ministry could issue measures with the government’s previous consent and only to the necessary extent and for the necessary time, while it would have to explain current epidemiological risks in its justification.

Until the end of this year, the legislation would enable the Health Ministry to take special nationwide measures to curb the epidemic or in the case of a threat of its new outburst, ordering some activities and banning or restricting some services. The bill mentions the spheres of public transport, trade and production as well as shopping centers, hairdressers and similar services, swimming pools, mass events and universities.

The ministry would gain the power to order healthcare facilities to allocate capacities for fighting the epidemic. It could also ban or restrict visits to hospitals and social care homes and order the use of protective and disinfection means.

The bill also stipulates a fine of up to three million crowns for violating the ministry’s measures.

On Wednesday, the opposition parties agreed that they would like to debate the special temporary bill in a standard regime but with shortened deadlines and not in the state of legislative emergency,Christian Democrat (KDU-CSL) chairman Marian Jurečka said after meeting Hamáček, who also admitted this later.

However, the Pirates are ready to deal with the bill in the legislative emergency regime to avoid an interim period between the end of the state of national emergency on May 17 and the beginning of the new legislation’s effect, Pirate deputy group head Jakub Michálek said. Anti-EU far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) chairman Tomio Okamura shared this view.

Vojtěch added that his office should completely review the legislation connected with the epidemic by September 30, including the constitutional bill on the Czech Republic’s security, the crisis law and the law on public health protection.

The government also asked the Interior Ministry to work out proposed changes to the crisis legislation.

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