Breaking: Prague court cancels Czech anti-coronavirus measures on free movement, retail sales

The Prague Municipal Court has cancelled, as of April 27, the Health Ministry's four anti-coronavirus measures restricting free movement of people as well as retail sales and services in the Czech Republic

The Prague Municipal Court has just annulled four measures from the Czech Health Ministry in connection with the country’s measures intended to slow the spread of coronavirus, calling their implementation illegal.

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The measures include those that prohibit free movement of people within the Czech Republic, and retail sales and services in the country.

The court’s decision will take effect from Monday, April 27.

The ruling cancelling the Health Ministry’s restrictive measures refers to their implementation under the Act on Public Protection rather than the Crisis Management Act.

The government will have the opportunity to re-implement them in a different manner, i.e. under the Crisis Act, before the ruling takes effect. The government has until April 27 to do so.

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While it can be predicted that the government will re-issue the annulled measures in another form, more information is not yet known. Czech media channels are currently reaching out to Ministry of Health Adam Vojtěch and Deputy Health Minister Roman Prymula, and Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to assess their next steps.

The Czech government had previously announced a five-step plan for reopening shops. Restrictions on free movement had yet to be addressed.

Prague’s Municipal Court met a legal complaint filed by healthcare law expert Ondrej Dostál. He criticized the ministry’s measures as “arbitrary, chaotic and incomprehensible.”

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Via Twitter, Dostál wrote that “the government has made crisis legislation a tear-off calendar.”

Dostál had initially filed the complaint against government measures issued on March 23 and March 26; while these were superseded by later measures, the Prague Municipal Court allowed him to update his complaint so it addressed the measures currently in place.

“The court fully understands the fact that the current situation in the Czech Republic is completely out of the ordinary and does not want to downplay the threats that arise from the health pandemic for the state and its inhabitants,” said the Judicial Chamber President Štěpán Výborný, said in his ruling.

“The court fully respects that the state of emergency has been declared by the government, as well as the reasons for which it was declared. However, the Court could not ignore the fact that the scope of the contested measures constitutes an unprecedented restriction of fundamental rights, in particular freedom of movement and freedom of establishment.”

Výborný said that even in the current situation, the state power authorities must insist on rules and preserve the rule of law to the maximum possible extent.

The government should have issued the measures under the Crisis Act, he added.

“The court must reject the practice of only one ministry having this power in its hands,” Výborný added.

“The court’s decision is just a sad confirmation of the government’s incompetence and chaos, which threatens the fate of the people and the prosperity of the country,” ODS Chairman Petr Fiala wrote on Twitter.

“The court confirmed our concerns that the government acted illegally when it stopped making decisions under the Crisis Management Act and proceeded under the Public Protection Act.”

“The President of the Senate emphasized that, even in the current situation, it is necessary for public authorities to adhere to the rules in order to preserve the rule of law as much as possible,” Pirate Chairman Ivan Bartoš wrote.

“We pointed this out at the beginning, and the court’s decision only confirms our words.”

Czech President Miloš Zeman has said that by cancelling the anti-coronavirus measures, the Prague Municipal Court takes all responsibility for its verdict’s impact on the lives and health of inhabitants and the economy of the Czech Republic.

This is a developing story; we will update with new information as it becomes available.  

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