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Coronavirus: Bill seeks massive increase in fines for violating restrictions

A bill hiking in-court penalties more than 15-fold for businesses that violate Covid-19 restrictions is due to go to the plenum on Friday, the justice minister said on Wednesday.

The bill provides for a fine of up to €50,000 and/or one year in jail. Prior, the penalty had a maximum six-month prison sentence and/or a fine of up to €3,000.

On top, a second new bill provides for staggered out-of-court fines for businesses owners or managers that do not comply. They will also see a steep increase in the fine, which is now €300 but will be increased to €2,000 for first time violations, €4,000 for a second violation and €8,000 for a third.

From the fourth violation or even earlier, “if this is deemed appropriate” it will be possible to file a criminal case in court, and at the same time “without notification” police can impose an immediate suspension of the business, the justice minister Giorgos Savvides told reporters after a meeting of the House legal affairs committee.

“These measures are strict, but necessary,” he said. “Because we believe that all companies that operate and whose operation may endanger human lives will keep in mind that they must comply with the laws and regulations,” he added.

Savvides said he hoped the government’s bill would be accepted by all of the parties so it could be passed through the plenary as soon as possible. He brushed aside suggestions that the penalties were draconian by citing the risk of someone becoming infected through a business that might be providing services to “many tens or hundreds of people”.

At the same time, he said the main desire of the government was to restart the economy. “On the other hand, it should be made clear that we have not overcome the virus,” he said. “The virus is here and we need to realise that it will stay with us for a long time to come.”

He added that was why such measures must be taken at the same time as the relaxations to ensure no second wave. Savvides said he didn’t think a fine of € 2,000 was disastrous “given that there is a risk that tens or hundreds of people could suffer through omissions”.

“The aim is not to terrorise anyone, nor to impose conditions that would make someone afraid to operate. Our sole purpose is that it is a matter of health and life and death.”



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