Former chancellor of justice sues government over coronavirus restrictions

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Allar Jõks. Source: Hanna Samoson/ERR

Allar Jõks, sworn advocate and former Estonian chancellor of justice, on Monday filed an action with the Tallinn Administrative Court over the government's order extending coronavirus-related restrictions, Postimees said.

"The action was bought in the interests of one family cafe of Kalamaja, but it concerns everyone with regard to whom restrictions were extended at the beginning of May - theaters, restaurants and spas," Jõks wrote on social media.

Jõks emphasized that filing the action against the government does not mean that he is a virus denier.

"I do, however, deny the notion that when combating the virus, the state does not have to take into account the rights of others," he said. 

Jõks said that the explanatory remarks accompanying the government's order fail to show how the restrictions affect education, business, or residents' habits of culture consumption. In addition, there is no data to suggest that theaters or concert halls are places of high risk of infection. Nor does the explanatory memorandum show that alternative restrictions were considered to allow cafes not to be closed, such as requirements concerning dispersion, opening hours, occupancy.

Moreover, the explanatory memorandum offers no explanations as to why theater performances and concerts must be forbidden, although compared to the beginning of March, when the country was locked down, the infection rate of the past 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants and the number of people hospitalized have decreased almost threefold.

"Instead, we can find in it irrelevant general references to other countries and studies. However, the example of Ireland does not explain why Estonia's infection indicators at the beginning of May require precisely such restrictions and why, for example, dispersion or limiting occupancy is not sufficient," Jõks wrote. 

According to Jõks, the ban on theater and concerts raises the suspicion that the government itself does not believe that a mask will help against the virus.

"Otherwise, it would indeed be possible to safely enjoy a performance wearing a mask and observing dispersion," he said.

"The shortcomings in substantiating the restrictions by the government raise the question of whose task it is to look at the bigger picture when combating the virus," Jõks said. 

The former chancellor of justice also cited an article by Yuval Noah Harar published in the February 26 edition of the Financial Times, in which the author said that when deciding whether to impose a lockdown, it is not sufficient to ask: "How many people will fall sick with COVID-19 if we don't impose the lockdown?" We should also ask: "How many people will experience depression if we do impose a lockdown? How many people will suffer from bad nutrition? How many will miss school or lose their job? How many will be battered or murdered by their spouses?"

"Is it the responsibility of the scientific advisory council to consider the different fundamental rights? No, it must be done by those who have been elected and set apart. Moreover, there is no scientific method of balancing off and weighing various fundamental rights and values," Jõks said. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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