The Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act should have been amended years ago, sworn lawyer and former justice chancellor Allar Jõks told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal".
The emergency situation has been in effect for nearly two months. Media is asking with increasing intensity how much longer must Prime Minister and head of the emergency situation Jüri Ratas personally close down student housings and nursing homes, "Aktuaalne kaamera. Nädal" reported on Sunday.
Such advice should be delivered by the Health Board, but The Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act currently in force does not grant the Health Board permission to do that.
"Who can implement which measures - be it banning evets, be it quarantining people and institutions - the law does not permit Health Board to do that. If we would have made these decisions, they would have been illegal," Health Board's director general Merike Jürilo said.
According to Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise, many acts, including this same Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, in force since 2003, have obscure wording which makes interpreting them in the same way difficult even for lawyers.
Last week, The Riigikogu committee opted to supplement the draft law amending the Medical Devices Act and related acts with regulation of several acts: The Emergency Act, the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, the Health Services Organization Act and the Health Insurance Act. The committee opted to refer the draft to plenary on May 6, proposing to hold the first reading then.
The draft confers certain rights on the Health Board in the event of an epidemic of communicable diseases, for example, preventing the movement of people at risk of infection and, if necessary, closing schools and child and welfare institutions.
"Politicians like to be on the forefront during a crisis. This is understandable, it is their work, their capital. The other reason why this act was not amended before is that the Health Board is not trusted. Both of those reasons for not amending the act or stalling the amendments are actually very dangerous," Jõks said, adding that previous governments sould have amended the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act years ago.
"Something about this smells of professional negligence, of political negligence. I would first and foremost look at the social ministry, because the act and the readiness of the Health Board is withing the social ministry's field of responsibility. I don't want to blame anyone, but it is understandable that it is easier to combat alcohol, gluttony and pharmacies than to do the dirty work of preparing for a possible crisis," Jõks commented.
Editor: Anders Nõmm