COVID spreading should no longer be a crime

The Department of Justice plans to remove COVID-19 from the list of contagious diseases whose deliberate spread is a criminal offense in July. The Department of Health is waiting for the change to remove the seven-day isolation requirement after a positive test for COVID; it would like to hasten the transition.

The Ministry of Justice has justified the proposed effective date of July 1, 2023, on the grounds of “the anticipated length of the legislative process.” It said it had prepared the proposal with the Ministry of Health. Health Minister Vlastimil Válek (TOP 09) had referred to the latter earlier but estimated that the change could be effective as early as April.

The COVID-19 disease was included by the government of previous Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) on the list of contagious diseases in the spring of 2020. In its current explanatory memorandum, Justice recalled that, at that time, there was very little relevant information about COVID, especially its health effects and consequences for public health. “Neither effective treatments for the disease nor appropriate preventive measures were available at that time,” the ministry wrote.

“However, this reason has now fallen away, as in the meantime, sufficient knowledge about the disease has been gathered, and it is possible to ensure its effective treatment and prevention of serious, life-threatening conditions,” the drafters said. The spread of COVID-19 no longer reaches the level of societal harm of the other listed diseases.

The Ministry of Health wants people who test positive for COVID-19 to no longer be automatically ordered to be isolated for seven days. The draft decree aims to put the treatment of COVID-19 back in the hands of doctors. They are to decide according to the level of risk—precisely, the patient’s state of health, surroundings, or work. A spokesman for the authority has previously said the intention is to enforce the change starting in April. Minister Vlastimil Válek (TOP 09) said at the end of February that the decree would come into force in a matter of days, perhaps tens of days.

The conditions of isolation and quarantine have changed over the three years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first patients were consistently isolated in hospitals. At first, isolation lasted 14 days, and all contacts of the infected were ordered to quarantine. After a positive PCR or antigen test by a healthcare professional, the patient must be isolated for seven days. Quarantines were abolished about a year ago.

Spreading a contagious human disease is a criminal offense punishable by six months to three years imprisonment in the Penal Code at the introductory rate.