You Keep Ignoring Us. Next Time We’ll Cancel Respirators Immediately

One strong statement stands out from Tuesday’s ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court, which questioned the mandatory wearing of respirators in transport and shops. The health ministry, according to the court, still has not heeded its appeals to justify anti-epidemic measures more carefully.

“The court only requires the ministry to meet the justification requirements clearly laid down in the pandemic law. Yet the ministry is unable to meet this requirement,” lamented Petr Mikes, president of the court panel that annulled the emergency measure in question. Due to the lack of justification, the order cannot be reviewed, according to the court.

The decision came on a petition by an asthmatic who was bothered by the fact that he was not exempted from wearing a respirator. Many other measures have been overturned by the court in the past. The ministry can rectify the measure on indoor respirators within three days.

The court also faulted the ministry for largely copying its reasoning from earlier measures. Yet the court also quashed those because of flimsy arguments.

“It is striking that the respondent, despite repeated reproaches from the court, has not proceeded to draft a new justification that respects the pandemic law, and instead continues to ‘recycle’ justifications that the court has repeatedly found to be inadequate and inconsistent with the law,” the court said.

Why did the ministry repeat the same mistake multiple times and risk the court wiping its other decisions off the table?

Neither Minister Adam Vojtěch nor his subordinates have explained their approach so far. Vojtěch only assured that the ministry would complete the justification of the emergency measure to meet the court’s objections.

Those offering to be the first to take the hit for the imperfect measures are the ministry lawyers who formulate the documents and vouch for their professional standard. Criticism from outside the office is also often directed at them.

In the annulled measure on respirators, for example, the Ministry limited itself to the assertion by the President of the Czech Vaccinological Society that respirators do not restrict the supply of oxygen for breathing according to unspecified studies. However, the court stressed that the ministry should have been more consistent and cited specific studies.

In Tuesday’s ruling, the Supreme Administrative Court threatened not to give officials three days to correct and improve the anti-epidemic measure next time, but to cancel it with immediate effect, or even retroactively.

Another way to avoid blunders in court is to clarify the Pandemic Act. Some lawyers say the law needs to be refined.