The Supreme Administrative Court in Czechia has cancelled the current obligation, enacted by the former health minister, to provide a vaccination certificate or a medical certificate proving successful recovery from COVID-19 to enter restaurants, clubs and hotels, reported the Czech News Agency.
According to the court, the measure is not permissible as vaccination against COVID-19 is voluntary and thus the state cannot force people to take it, Judge Petr Mikes said, adding that the court's decision will come into force in seven days.
Mikes also said that the ministry can justify the measure by saying that the situation is extremely bad and the entire country is suffering an outbreak of COVID-19, or the government would have to declare a state of emergency and regulate restaurants and hotels through emergency measures.
"We consider this measure to be very reasonable and valid in all countries. The measure started in mid-November and we have extended it. What the administrative court is challenging is that there is no support for it in the pandemic law. And such a decision of the administrative court is exactly the reason why the law needs to be amended," responded Health Minister Vlastimil Valek
"All the changes we have made to the pandemic law reflect the court's decision,” he added. The amendment to the pandemic law was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on February 4, with 80 deputies voting in favour of the motion and 55 against it.
The law would broaden the government’s ability to enforce restrictions without a need to call a state of emergency. However, according to some opposition politicians and the public, this is an unnecessary extension of executive powers.
"If there was no pandemic law, it would not be just about cancelling measures that are restrictive, it's about the fact that everything would stop working at that point, including smart quarantine which works under the pandemic law. We would become a risky country" warned Valek.
Following the court´s decision, the government decided to cancel the need to show a vaccination certificate or a certificate on COVID-19 recovery from February 9 in order to be able to use services and enter restaurants or events.
According to the current PM Petr Fiala this has not been decided under pressure of the court verdict, but rather on the basis of expert recommendations. "The court's decision only hastened it by a few days. This is not an ill-considered step, but the implementation of our government's strategy to fight COVID-19," Fiala said, as quoted by the news agency.
Some experts consider the abolition of the obligation to show COVID-19 certificates to be too early. Pavel Dlouhy, the chairman of the professional society of infectologists, considers it absurd that a court has ended the pandemic in the Czech Republic.
"It is absurd that the pandemic is being ended in the Czech Republic by a decision of the Supreme Administrative Court, which is certainly staffed with highly qualified experts in COVID-19," Dlouhy commented sarcastically.
"I find it highly weird to relax measures at a time when the numbers of infected people are still rising or at least not yet convincingly falling and it is not entirely clear how many people will end up in hospitals and when and how quickly the incidence will fall or fall to reasonable numbers," virologist Ruth Tachezy told the Czech News Agency.
The biochemist Libor Grubhoffer said that the cancellation of certificates could extend the Omicron pandemic wave significantly, at least until the end of March. "We've resigned to the fact that we have huge numbers of positive people and a high incidence number,” he stressed.
"It is a fact that the existing measures are not being respected much, they are being minimally controlled, so the government may just be resigning to reality," said the molecular immunologist Vaclav Horejsi.
According to immunologist Zdenek Hell, there is not enough data to cancel all measures. "I would advise approaching the process of relaxing measures with the utmost caution. The situation in the US and some European countries is a good example. Although the number of cases of infection with the Omicron variant is beginning to decline, the number of deaths is steadily increasing,” he warned, as quoted by the news agency.
Also Srdan Matic, the representative of the World Health Organization in the Czech Republic, warned against the cancellation of the measures. "We should not underestimate nature. We don't know which way these mutations will go, but we don't see the end of the pandemic yet," he said, adding that such a decision is probably motivated more by economic goals than health.