The Czech Republic’s Supreme Administrative Court has ruled against the country’s current measure allowing only those who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 into restaurants, clubs, hotels, hairdressers, bars and other non-essential indoor spaces.
The ruling means that the current mandate is invalid and will be scrapped; the court’s decision will come into force in seven days.
The measure was enacted by the former health minister, and meant that a vaccination certificate or medical certificate proving successful recovery from COVID-19 was required to enter restaurants, clubs and hotels, as reported by the Czech News Agency. The Supreme Court’s ruling follows new Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s announcement last month that his government planned to scrap the previous government’s plans to mandate vaccines for older people and those in certain professions.
“We do not want to deepen the rifts in society,” Fiala said at a press conference on Wednesday 19 January.
According to the court, the measure is invalid as vaccination against COVID-19 is voluntary and thus the state cannot force people to take it, Judge Petr Mikes said.
The controversial mandate came into force on 22 November 2021, with the Czech government banning unvaccinated people from most non-essential indoor places. The mandate meant that those unvaccinated against COVID-19 were no longer allowed to show negative COVID tests in order to attend public events, go to bars, restaurants, visit hairdressers, museums and similar facilities, or use hotels, ITV reported.
Only people who were vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID remained eligible to enter, with exceptions for teenagers aged 12 to 18 and people whose medical condition didn’t allow vaccination.
“The Ministry has no support for restricting this type of establishment in the so-called pandemic law, unless it is a technical measure, such as the use of disinfection or the location of seats. The ministry could restrict their activities only in accordance with the Public Health Protection Act, however, only to persons suspected of being infected,” Judge Petr Mikeš explained on Wednesday, adding that not everyone can be a suspect of an infection.
This would only be permitted in a situation where the entire Czech Republic would be identified as an outbreak.
The court also pointed out that the aim of the measure in this form could not be to force citizens to be vaccinated, which are voluntary.
“However, the aim of the measure cannot be to indirectly force citizens to be vaccinated. This would make voluntary vaccination mandatory through an emergency vaccination measure, as unvaccinated people would have no choice but to be vaccinated if they wanted to live normally,” Judge Mikeš said.
Petr Fiala was sworn in as new prime minister of the Czech Republic on 17 December. On 19 January, his government announced it would invalidate the former government’s directive on mandatory vaccination for healthcare workers and some other professions. Fiala said his government didn’t want to “divide society even more.”
Although the Czech Republic’s vaccination rate is higher than in some other Central and Eastern European countries, it sits below the EU average. The country’s vaccination rate is currently 64%, having risen from a reported 56% in September.
In the nation with a population of 10.7 million, 6.7 million are considered fully vaccinated. Reports state that just 2.8 million people in the Czech Republic have received a booster shot.
Recently appointed Czech Health Minister Vlastimil Válek, speaking last month, said that mandatory vaccination was “nonsense from the start.”