The proposed new government legislation on pandemic management gives the health minister far-reaching powers, opposition parties said on Thursday, while the ruling party insisted the bill’s provisions are in line with the constitution when it comes to restricting civil liberties for reasons of public health.
MPs began the article-by-article review of the Dangerous Infectious Diseases Law of 2021, which will repeal and replace the current Quarantine Law – dating back to colonial times – under which the health minister has issued the coronavirus-related decrees to date.
Savia Orfanidou, MP with ruling Disy, said that following objections raised by parties the government revised the wording of the bill and sent it back to parliament.
According to Orfanidou, the attorney-general’s office maintains that the bill “is completely constitutional.”
Nevertheless, strong disagreements remain within the House health committee. The committee will summon Health Minister Michalis Hadjipantelas to its next session discussing the bill.
Main opposition Akel pointed out that the proposed law allows the government (through the health minister) to circumvent parliament when issuing such decrees.
Moreover, even the revised text does not clarify what constitutes a dangerous infectious disease, nor does it make any reference to WHO or ECDC guidelines when promulgating measures.
Akel’s Giorgos Loukaides censured the government for insisting on suspending all fundamental human rights and freedoms, even freedom of expression and the right to organise.
Moreover, under the bill the government gets to decide on its own what an infectious disease is, to suspend protections for human rights without parliamentary assent, and to “board up” parliament and the courts.
For their part, the Greens said they would not vote for the bill as it stands, “so long as it endows the health minister with the extraordinary omnipotence to shutter even the House, or the extraordinary omnipotence to decide what constitutes a dangerous disease.”