Keres: Government in breach of Constitution by retaining restrictions
The government is in breach of the Estonian Constitution by moving forward with existing restrictions in a situation where the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has complete altered the situation, sworn lawyer Paul Keres tells ERR in an interview. He urges dropping Covid measures and allowing people to return to normal life.
The COVID-19 scientific advisory body on Tuesday came up with a series of reasons why allowing unvaccinated people to attend events after producing a negative rapid test result is not a good idea. I wondered at the final item, and I quote, "Requiring vaccinated people to also produce test results would negatively impact the pace of vaccination (including as concerns booster doses)." We are still seeing restrictions justified through the need to motivate vaccination. Is this in accordance with the rule of law?
It is definitely not in accordance with the principles of the rule of law.
Let us start with the basis for the restrictions. They follow section 28, subsection five of the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act (NETS) In it, the parliament completely surrenders its right of decision regarding restrictions to the government. I find the act itself to be formally unconstitutional. And looking at constitutional review practice over the last 10-15 years, I have yet to see a decision where provisions delegating authority such as are in included in NETS have been considered constitutional. So, there is that.
Ending the whole Covid certificates mess would be the right call if only to end the currently unconstitutional situation.
Secondly, enterprise and people's private lives are being constrained in a situation where everyone understands that the measures no longer have any effect, with even those in charge begrudgingly admitting that the virus will get everyone eventually, restrictions or not. I honestly do not understand how the government can afford [to maintain] something like that.
Suggesting that the pace of vaccination might fall if we restore test results [on par with certificates] is completely harebrained. People who have wished to get vaccinated have done so. I find forcing people to get vaccinated using such Jesuit measures to be contrary to law.
Perhaps it was an honest admission to some extent? After all, the official position is that vaccination is voluntary in Estonia and there can be no coercion. In its final item, the scientific advisory committee admitted that the aim of maintaining restrictions is to motivate people to get their booster or initial vaccine shots.
It is an admission in that sense.
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise said this fall that indirect restriction of the freedom of vaccination is unconstitutional. Restrictions cannot serve the purpose of forcing or coercing people into getting the shot. A clear and in my opinion necessary statement from Madise.
Unfortunately, the justice chancellor does not exercise control over government administrative acts. The government has been ignoring this observation for the last four or five months, which I find to be inadmissible. It is a flagrant conflict with the principles of our state and the rule of law staring us straight in the face.
Estonian companies are going bankrupt. The government cannot be bothered to reply to letters sent by gym owners who were the last to raise the alarm. I cannot understand what is happening in this country.
Head of the scientific council Toivo Maimets said that we need to strike a balance between the economy and healthcare. Looking at the makeup of the council, it is made up of doctors, virologists and a communication expert. No business people. How might one evaluate whether a balance has been struck in this case?
The one-sided composition of the scientific council is regrettable. But the task of the council is to advise the government on scientific matters, and it is up to the latter to strike a sensible balance.
Things are not good in those terms today. There is no balance, just a single message repeated in documents and at press conferences out of laziness and failure to consider what could be the new message so that the old one would not make them look like fools.
The old message being that everyone must get the shot, even though someone admits in the very next article how it is pretty much useless against Omicron. Yet, the government still tells people to get vaccinated with something concerning which we do not know whether it works or works for longer than two months.
It is absurd to put the screws to the economy and people following such reasoning.
I suppose it is motivated by fear of not knowing what will happen in a week or two because the infection rate is undoubtedly very high.
Infections are soaring and there is reason to fear infection.
However, we are always told that we should follow the example of similar countries. There are quite a few examples of states abolishing restrictions by now.
Our own statistics also seems to suggest, while my opinion is strictly that of an amateur, that while infections have seen a sharp spike, hospitalization remains stable or is even falling. Drawing from here the conclusion that we are looking at another medical disaster... I would not know to draw that conclusion from here.
Perhaps the scientific council has other tools or know-how, while they have not been shared with the public.
What should we do?
The government should end the current unconstitutional situation and allow people and companies to return to normal life before it all ends in tears.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski