Amendment gives police power to punish coronavirus rule breakers

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Police officer. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Police will be granted the right to issue fines to people breaking coronavirus restrictions if draft legislation proposed by the Ministry of Social Affairs is passed by the government.

A draft amendment has been proposed to change paragraphs 461 and 462 of the Act on the Prevention and Control of Communicable Diseases and will grant the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) additional powers.

If passed, the PPA will be able to carry out tasks on behalf of the Health Board which, currently, only the agency can carry out. This includes opening out of court proceedings against people breaking coronavirus restrictions, such as not wearing a mask in public.

The explanatory text of the amendment says, during a pandemic, it is not possible for the Health Board to carry out this role alone and additional support from the PPA is needed.

"It must be possible to resolve simpler cases on the spot (particularly in urgent proceedings) and to impose penalties on offenders," the text said.

This week, both Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) and the Minister of Health and Labor Tanel Kiik (Center) have said the current rules need to change.

"It is also possible to change the law so that the supervisory function can be given directly to the PPA. This would certainly make more sense," Kiik said on Tuesday, adding the PPA has more experience maintaining public order than the Health Board does.

The amendment will amend nine laws in total, sets the penalty fine at €9,600 and extends the payment of sickness benefits from day two until the end of 2021.

The ministry has sent the draft for approval and hopes that it can enter into force no later than May 1. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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