The Chamber of Deputies passed the governmental proposal for the extension of the state of emergency until May 17. According to the government, it was a necessary step since not extending it would mean that the majority of restrictions and measures would cease to be in effect. As a result, all shopping malls and restaurants could be opened, and the second wave of the epidemic would become a highly potential threat.
The request for an extension
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš emphasized the importance of the extension: “From an epidemiological point of view, it is necessary to continue in necessary measures preventing an uncontrolled spread of the epidemic, and our country still remains to be in a state of danger. Lives, health, property, as well as internal order and security continue to be endangered.” Babiš also added that he believes this is the last time he asks the Chamber of Deputies for the extension of the state of emergency.
The government originally planned the extension until May 25. The extension is partially caused by the decision of Prague Municipal Court, which revoked measures and restrictions as illegal since they were not issued in accordance with crisis law, but only as measures under public health protection law. The majority of restrictions and measures were subsequently re-enacted, however, their effect is dependent on the state of emergency. Therefore, the government requested the extension until May 25 as that is the term of the last stage of restriction loosening. After that date any measures issued by Ministry of Health should be sufficient.
The debate and final decision
In general, non-governmental parties were for the extension – but for a shorter period of time. For example, parties ODS and SPD were willing to extend only until May 7, and TOP 09 and STAN until May 10. Opposition criticized the government for the incomprehensibility which causes that the public is confused and cannot understand chaotic governmental steps. One of the provided examples was the re-opening of large hobbymarkets while small shops selling the same products have to be closed for another 14 days. The government should also publicly present data and forecasts, since it was also criticised by the court. Opposition also highlighted that the request for extension was not accompanied with arguments, clearly stated reasons and possible scenarios.
As a result, the government's proposal ultimately failed in the Chamber of Deputies. It was the date May 17, proposed by the communist party, which was eventually adopted. The date is supposed to reflect the need for health protection and return to normal regime at the same time. The communist party was also successful with their two accompanying proposals. The government should respectively submit a list of legislative changes enabling the central purchase of protective equipment, especially provided by Czech manufacturers, and also a list of future measures that are going to be passed in accordance with public health protection law when the state of emergency ceases to be in effect.
An amendment to the public health protection law should be passed next week, which would provide Ministry of Health with more competencies for issuing restrictions and measures after the date May 17. The ministry should be able to prohibit or restrict the operation of shops and services or to order the use of certain hygienic measures.