The Health Ministry proposes extending the pandemic law for a year and a half until August 2023. According to the draft amendment that the ministry has sent to the House of Commons for comment, it wants to extend the period during which emergency measures can be taken. Health Minister Adam Vojtěch is also planning to change the duration of the state of emergency, which is currently in force until December 26th, until the end of the year.
Regarding the state of emergency extension, the House will have to vote in favor of it in a meeting. If that does not happen, the measure requiring restaurants to close after 10 pm, for example, would cease to apply. This is being addressed, particularly in the New Year’s Eve celebrations.
A significant part of the pandemic law will expire at the end of next February, so the ministry proposes discussing the amendment in Parliament in a state of legislative emergency.
The defense and interior ministries could also issue new emergency measures under the pandemic law. The Defense Ministry will have the authority to impose standards on the armed forces, its ministerial employees, and contributory organizations. The Ministry of the Interior will have the power to issue emergency measures for the security forces and its organizational units, except for the prison service.
According to the explanatory memorandum, the Ministry of Health is trying to respond to criticism by the Supreme Administrative Court, which has annulled many emergency measures in the past. The court stated, among other things, that under the current legalization, it is not possible to regulate service establishments, including restaurants, accommodation facilities, or markets.
“The proposal will extend the protection of the entire population, including at-risk groups, to food service establishments, accommodation services, sports venues, all types of schools, school facilities, and other cultural, entertainment, and social events,” the explanatory memorandum states.
The authors added the possibility of ordering testing and related obligations for school and university students to the law. The law would also now allow the establishment of conditions under which employees or students can be present in the workplace and school. These additions should allow health officials to respond better when someone tests positive for Covid without ordering the entire establishment to close.
The ministry commented that based on the progress of the pandemic so far, it is likely that Covid will continue to be a threat to public health. The new omicron variant, which appears to be more contagious than previous variants, is also a risk.
If the amendment is not adopted by the end of February, the ministry says the state risks losing some of its tools to manage the Covid epidemic, and the epidemic could spread uncontrollably, according to the ministry.