The government’s draft legislation to replace the current Infectious Diseases Law, on which the health minister’s decrees have been based for the various measures taken relating to the coronavirus situation, is set to be tabled to parliament in the coming days.
Speaking on Tuesday after a courtesy meeting with the House legal affairs committee, Attorney-general Giorgos Savvides said the new law – dubbed the Dangerous Infectious Diseases Law – will not alter the philosophy of current legislation.
He said the current law is antiquated, dating back to British colonial rule, and therefore needs to be tweaked and modernised, also drawing on experiences with the coronavirus pandemic.
The purpose, he said, “is to come up with a more modern law that better covers the subject matter.”
The new law was approved by the cabinet last week.
Savvides said its passage comprises part of the commitments made under the national recovery and resilience plan, which Cyprus has submitted to the European Commission.
The attorney-general was asked about the issue of whether the health minister’s coronavirus-related decrees are constitutional, and whether the new law will retain the same status regarding parliament’s role.
He responded that the new law will likewise provide for the issuance of decrees without requiring parliament’s assent.
“Our view is that, by the very nature of the issue at hand and the need to take swift measures with immediate effect, any delay caused by needing every time to convene parliamentary committees and the House plenum… would not help the purposes of this law.”
Under the new legislation being promoted, penalties for non-compliance would be “deterrent,” he added.
Asked about the lawsuits filed in courts challenging the Covid decrees and measures, Savvides said that “it is the right of fellow attorneys and citizens who think their rights have been violated, to take legal recourse.”
He also commented on a decision by Nicosia district court last Friday, where the court rejected a motion filed by 186 people asking for an interim order exempting them from health ministry decrees imposing restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs sought the exemption until the court issues a final judgment on the substance of the case itself.
The plaintiffs’ request included exemption from having to possess a Safe Pass.
In its interim order decision, the court said the obligation to get a vaccine and submit to diagnostic tests did not violate an individual’s physical integrity or the freedom of religion or the freedom of opinion.
It further noted that displaying a negative test result was not the equivalent of personal data processing and rejected the suggestion that the plaintiffs had been subjected to torture or inhuman or humiliating treatment.
Decisions on interim orders do not prejudice the substance of a case. The lawsuit itself will proceed.