On Thursday, April 27, Prague Municipal Court revoked four measures of the Ministry of Health, which restricted the free movement of persons, retail and services due to the coronavirus epidemic. According to the court, the measures were passed in contradiction to law.
The court commented on the situation after the hearing: “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 make light of the threats that are posed from the health pandemic to the state and its people. (…) However, the court could not ignore the fact that the scope of the contested measures does present an unprecedented restriction of fundamental rights, in particular free movement and free enterprise.”
Therefore, the court revoked the measures introduced on March 26 and April 17, which restrict retail sales, and the measures introduced on March 23 and April 15, which restrict the free movement of persons. The judge Štěpán Výborný further explained that it is essential for governmental authorities to preserve the rule of law to the highest degree as possible even in such a crisis as the current pandemic. According to him, the government should have issued measures under the crisis law regime and not provide the entire authority to only one single ministry.
The plaintiff, lawyer Ondřej Dostál, said that in addition to the already mentioned points, his legal action was also based on the fact that restrictions were based only on a simple mention of COVID-19 presence in the Czech Republic without specialists’ explanation, and also based on not following the government’s own pandemic plan and instead acting on politicians’ advices stemming from current public opinions and not specialists’ expertise.
The Health Minister Adam Vojtěch commented on the court’s decisions: “We respect the judgment of the Municipal Court in Prague, although we will file a cassation complaint against it.“ According to him, there is also the lack of previous case law which could be used in determining authority of courts’ jurisdictions and authority of Ministry of Health for introducing restrictions and other measures.
According to the court, the government has time until April 27 to re-introduce measures restricting free movement, and retail and services in legal form, which means as a crisis measure. “The court is aware of the reason why the emergency measures were taken. Therefore, the court did not repeal the measures to the date April 23 in order to give the government time to rectify the hitherto defective legal situation,” explained Judge Štěpán Výborný.
The government has already acted and re-introduced some measures in a legal form according to the Crisis Act. However, some restrictions were already modified:
- The restriction of free movement of persons was lifted. However, it is not allowed to gather in groups exceeding the number of 10 people and it is still mandatory to keep the distance of at least 2 meters.
- It is allowed to hold church services, but only with a maximum of fifteen participants.
- It is allowed for foreigners from EU countries to travel to the Czech Republic, but only under certain conditions and with the obligation to provide a negative COVID-19 test result at the borderline check.
Czech citizens: Traveling to and from the Czech Republic
It is also possible to leave the Czech Republic, even with the intention to go on vacation. But if a person returns, he / she must either provide authorities with a negative COVID-19 test which is not more than four days old, or he /she must undergo a 14-day quarantine. The Ministry of the Interior specified that this measure will be in effect since Monday, April 27. Therefore, those who return during the weekend will have to undergo the quarantine without exception. In addition, also so called "pendlers", meaning people commuting to work abroad, will also be able to cross the border more freely than before, but it will be mandatory for them to take a test for coronavirus every 14 days.
EU citizens: Traveling to and from the Czech Republic
It will be possible even for citizens of the European Union to travel to the Czech Republic up to three days, but only under the condition of performing business activity and they will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test, which is not more than four days old, at the borderline check.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seasonal workers who will want to spend more time in the Czech Republic may also arrive, but if they do not provide a negative test result, they will be restricted from free movement for two weeks. Employers who are going to bring such workers from EU countries will also have other obligations, including workers’ accommodation and medical care.