Czech government manages to extend state of emergency after joint request from regional governors

Photo: Elchinator/Pixabay, CC0

The state of emergency in the Czech Republic, which grants the government extraordinary powers to enact lockdown rules, will continue until the end of February. The government was able to extend the current system after a joint request from all of the country’s regional governors provided a new legal justification. However, this came under the condition that it revises the effectiveness of current restrictions.

Earlier last week, it looked as though the near five-month-long continual state of emergency would come to an abrupt end on February 14, due to the government’s request to extend the time period not having received sufficient backing in the Chamber of Deputies.

This would have effectively meant the end to the ongoing lockdown in the Czech Republic, because it would make it legal for shops, gastronomy businesses, cultural and sports facilities to reopen.

Alena Schillerová,  photo: archive of the Office of Czech Government

However, a last moment appeal from the country’s 14 regional governors (Prague included) allowed the government to extend the state of emergency by 14 days until February 28.

At a press briefing on Sunday afternoon, Finance Minister Alena Schillerová explained the legal reasoning behind this.

“The government paid careful attention to making sure that today’s decision was in accordance with the constitution. The extension of the state of emergency is in line with legal requirements, because it is based on a new factual situation. Namely, that we have received a request from all of the country’s regional governors to extend it.”

The validity of this reasoning has since been attacked by the Speaker of the Senate Miloš Vystrčil from the opposition Civic Democrats, who threatened to send a complaint to the Constitutional Court. However, he and several other leading senators have since said they will wait to see the response from the lower-house of Parliament.

The extension of the state of emergency means that there are no immediate changes to the current lockdown rules. However, there is one exception. From Monday, administrative offices have had their opening times restored to standard full-time working hours. The Association of Regional governors made this a condition in their appeal to extend the state of emergency.

Martin Kuba,  photo: archive of ODS,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY 2.0

Martin Kuba of the Civic Democrats, who is the governor of the South Moravian Region and the head of the Association of Regional Governors, told Czech Television on Sunday that there are other conditions the government has agreed to.

“Our conditions to the prime minister were that the extension is only for 14 days and that negotiations with the opposition have to take place on Tuesday where pandemic related legislature will be discussed.

“Furthermore, we want several of the current measures to be revised. We also request that the government discusses the measures it has in place with us every 10 days. The first thing we want to hear from the government is how they plan to ease restrictions on shops, services, sport and culture.”

Several governors have indicated that they will not ask for another extension after the 14 day period runs out. It seems that the reaching of a compromise in the lower-house remains key if the government wants to maintain control over managing the pandemic.