Court overrules family rights group's covid restrictions complaint

An outdoor protest against coronavirus restrictions held in Tallinn in April this year.
An outdoor protest against coronavirus restrictions held in Tallinn in April this year. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A court has rejected a complaint from a family rights group which challenged government coronavirus restrictions, and says that the restrictions, imposed on outdoor events in August this year, were not unlawful. At the same time, the court ruled that in future alternative counter-measures to the viral spread than blanket restrictions might be viable, as knowledge about the virus improves.

The first-tier Tallinn administrative court ruled Friday against upholding the complaint, from the Foundation for the Protection of the Family and Tradition (SAPTK), relating to a government order restricting public outdoor meetings under coronavirus conditions.

The court statement did not, however, come down firmly in favor of restrictions either, and said that alternative counter-measures by the executive might be viable as knowledge of the virus improves.

The court stated that: "It is feasible that containing the spread of the virus does not prove possible.

"That, in turn, forces the public power to reorganize certain resources is a more structural way, for instance by notably increasing health care funding at the expense of some other public expenditures to ensure that in case of yet another growth in the infection rate, there should be enough human and material resources available, or take the position that under certain circumstances, people will not be able to receive medical services that are funded from public law measures," the statement continued, and the court added that future knowledge may enable better forecasting of the spread of COVID-19 and treatments of the unwell.

"In this case, the need for 'general preventive measures' such as the ones being disputed, will disappear," the court added.

The court also said that it agrees with SAPTK in that preventive measures cannot be justified endlessly, in the light of the unfamiliar nature of the COVID-19 virus.

At the same time, the government order, from August 19 this year did not fail to take into account any important circumstances from the perspective of establishing restrictions of this type, nor did it assign arbitrarily large or trivial importance to any particular interests or rights.

In this light, the restrictions were not unlawful, the administrative court ruled.

SAPTK's arguments against the restrictions were two-fold: First, establishing restrictions of this type by government order wa not lawful, and a regulation, as a legislative act, would be more suitable, though no scope for doing this in Estonia currently exists, the organization said. Second, a lack of scientific or other data indicating that the virus is able to spread at public outdoor meetings to the extent that the restrictions, particularly in relation to numbers, are in proportion.

SAPTK head Varro Vooglaid also said the manner in which the government order was put in place hinders its constitutional review by the Chancellor of Justice.

SAPTK and Vooglaid, who is editor-in-chief of the Objektiiv portal, have also filed court actions concerning the legality of coronavirus vaccination certificates, and also issued a complaint to the State Agency of Medicines (Raviamet) over the use of raffles targeted at minors and promoting the coronavirus vaccine.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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