Czech court cancels measure requiring respirators in buildings and on public transport

The Health Ministry now has three days to react or the measure could take effect immediately.

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 27.07.2021 14:25 (updated on 27.07.2021)

UPDATE (July 27, 2021; 4:17 pm): The Czech Health Ministry will complete the justification of its measure concerning the mandatory wearing of respirators indoors following the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court (NSS), Health Minister Adam Vojtěch told reporters today. He said he cannot imagine the measure not being in place in the Czech Republic. Vojtěch said this restriction is not exceptional on a global level, adding that the question is how detailed an explanation will be sufficient for the court.

The Czech Supreme Administrative Court (NSS) has canceled the government mandate on wearing respirators in buildings and on public transport, ruling that the Czech Ministry of Health's current measure is not justified. The cancelation of the measure will take effect three days after the judgment becomes final, allowing the ministry time to react and offer its justification.

According to a press release published on the court's website, the ministry is still "systematically ignoring" its decision. The NSS has said it would cancel the measure immediately, without delay, if it is not acknowledged.

Will you still wear a respirator if it is no longer mandated for indoors and public transport?

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The NSS has previously issued two similar decisions. It repeatedly criticized the ministry's reasoning for the measure, particularly the question of whether the benefits of wearing a respirator outweigh the health risks in certain cases. The court also requested that the ministry supply references to expert studies. According to the NSS, the ministry has not yet done so.

The petitioner in the case is a person suffering from a long-term respiratory disease, who finds it difficult to wear a respirator, and who also has a high level of antibodies after Covid-19. She says wearing a respirator endangers her health more than not wearing it.

Petr Mikeš, President of the Eighth Chamber of the Supreme Administrative Court, said, “In a state governed by the rule of law, it is not possible for the executive branch to disregard the court's clearly stated opinion and obstruct the judiciary and the citizen. The court only requires the ministry to meet the requirements for justification, which are clearly set out in the pandemic law. Nevertheless, the ministry is unable to meet this requirement. "

He added, "The court only wants the Health Ministry to meet the demand and provide a justification clearly set down by the pandemic law. Despite this, the Health Ministry has been unable to meet this demand."

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The measure imposes the obligation to wear respirators in a number of indoor spaces including shops, service establishments, and public transport. The regulation also applies to medical facilities or social services.

According to Mikeš, the court did not immediately repeal the measure because it applies to visits to patients in healthcare facilities as well as users of social services who visit social service facilities and would be jeopardized by its immediate cancelation. This is why the ministry has been given a short time to negotiate a solution.

The court says the government's repeated non-compliance with its decisions results in uncertainty between people and the authorities who monitor their compliance, for instance, the police. In addition, Mikeš said, such behavior on the part of the ministry overwhelms the courts, which must repeatedly rule on regulations and fines.

The ministry has not yet issued a response to the ruling.

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