Bill boosting Health Board-PPA interface during pandemics passes Riigikogu

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Entrance to Toompea Castle, seat of the Riigikogu in Tallinn. Source: Postimees/Scanpix

A bill has passed at the Riigikogu which would provide a legislative basis to oblige the public to abide by established precautions in the event of a communicable disease. The bill, which had been the focal point of protests last month, found 56 votes in support at the 101-seat Riigikogu.

The bill regulation will simplify and speed up the involvement of law enforcement agencies, if the Health Board (Terviseamet) requests their aid.

More specific conditions and procedures for that involvement is to be established by government regulation, BNS reports. 

The bill makes the public liable to misdemeanor proceedings in breaching face-mask-wearing requirements, restrictions on movement, on the organization of events, and other restrictions which may be put in place in the event of a pandemic. 

Previously, only those who breached quarantine requirements were liable to be charged with a misdemeanor offense. 

The restrictions in question would be those installed by the national government or other relevant authorities such as the Health Board, while violations can result in a €400 fine for individuals, and up to €13,000 for organizations ("legal persons"). 

Protests against the amendments to the existing legislation, the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act, known by its Estonian abbreviation of NETS, came to a head in late April when both the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and the Health Board issued several precepts to protesters in Tallinn's Vabaduse väljak. The protests had previously taken place on Toompea, outside the Riigikogu, but reportedly been moved down the hill for dispersal and social distancing reasons.  

The bill passed the Riigikogu Wednesday with 56 votes in favor to 39 against. 

The amendments would also allow authorities to close temporarily institutions or to restrict their activities, as well as meetings and events. 

Previously, Health Board personnel had been able to cooperate with law enforcement agencies only via applications for professional assistance or exchange of officials, BNS reports.

The amendments overall help the Health Board in resolving a health related emergency, including in the conduct of supervision, as set out by the government of the day. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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