The Senate is debating the pandemic law

Ondřej Deml

On Thursday, the Senate debated a controversial government amendment to the pandemic law that expands the possibility of issuing anti-virus measures. The hearing began at 10 am.

In the upper house, Health Minister Vlastimil Válek (TOP 09) warned that if it is not approved, the government will have to declare a state of emergency from March 1, when the current version of the pandemic law expires.

Válek added that the COVID-19 epidemic is moving to the at-risk group of seniors, which is why he said measures still need to be maintained in senior homes and hospitals. An amendment to the pandemic law was approved by the House of Commons last week. He said the anti-virus emergency measures would cover a broader range of activities than before.

Authorities will also be able to order testing for COVID-19, for example, for businesses, students, and preschoolers, not just employees and other workers. When MPs were debating the law, opponents of the amendment repeatedly protested near the House of Commons. 

The Senate “doesn’t matter”

The parliamentary chambers approve the pandemic amendment when the government has announced the release of anti-coronavirus measures. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) announced that practically only the wearing of respirators will remain from March onwards.

According to the parliamentary version of the amendment, the main parts of the pandemic law on the possibility of issuing emergency anti-viral measures are to remain in force until the end of November. The current law foresees its effectiveness only until February 28.

The House committees have taken different positions on the amendment. While the health committee recommended that the plenary approve the draft, the constitutional law committee rejected it. Some senators claim that some provisions of the pandemic amendment may be unconstitutional. They also object to the expedited approval in a state of legislative emergency.

President Miloš Zeman has already announced that he will sign the bill.