New office that could restrict movement or businesses

A draft amendment to the Public Health Protection Act has been criticized for giving too much power to the Chief Hygienist.

Right now, only the government has the power to impose widespread anti-epidemic measures restricting free movement, opening hours of businesses or public events. The current PES system also needs the state of emergency to be in place for all of its five levels - which has been widely criticized by the opposition. The state of emergency has been extended until December 12 - and the cabinet would have to once again ask the Chamber of Deputies for further extension.

The approval of the amendment would give more power to the Ministry of Health which could impose restrictions without needing the state of emergency or the consent of the Chamber of Deputies through a new Centralized Hygiene Service lead by the Chief Hygienist and deputy Minister of Health.

This new office would be able to restrict or prohibit travel, gatherings, public transport, shops, services or events. It could also request information from the mobile operators regarding movement of infected individuals up to three weeks back.

According to the Minister of Health Jan Blatný (for ANO), this amendment is needed, and it respects GDPR and other regulations. The government sent the proposal to an abbreviated inter-ministerial comment procedure.