Parliament has passed the law on the coronavirus containment effort. During the state of emergency, the government is authorised to adopt extraordinary measures in departure from the provisions of law in the interest of people’s health, legal security and the stability of the economy.
The provisions, requiring a two-thirds majority of the bill presented by Justice Minister Judit Varga, were passed by Parliament as part of an urgent procedure with 137 votes for and 53 against.
The law lays down specific rules related to the state of danger, or state of emergency as it's more widely known, declared due to the coronavirus.
In the present state of danger, in addition to the extraordinary measures provided for by law, the government has the authority to suspend the application of certain laws, to depart from statutory provisions and to adopt other extraordinary measures in decrees in the interest of guaranteeing the safety of citizens’ lives and health, their personal safety, the safety of their personal possessions and legal security, and the stability of the economy.
The government can exercise this competence – to a necessary and proportionate degree – for the purpose of preventing, managing and eliminating the human epidemic, and preventing and warding off its further harmful effects, the law now adopted lays down.
Parliament has authorised the government to extend the effect of its decrees adopted during the state of emergency as set forth in the relevant provision of the Fundamental Law until the end of the state of danger/state of emergency.
The House may revoke this authorisation at any time prior to the end of the state of emergency.
Parliament has also confirmed the government decrees adopted in connection with the state of emergency after the entry into force of the decree on the introduction of a state of emergency but before the entry into force of this law.
The legislation further lays down that the government is required to keep Parliament at its sittings informed about the measures adopted with a view to eliminating the state of emergency; in the absence of sittings, the Speaker of the House and the heads of the parliamentary groups.
The law stipulates that the President and Secretary General of the Constitutional Court provide for the ongoing operation of the Constitutional Court during the state of emergency. The full meetings and council meetings of the Constitutional Court can also be held, based on the decision of the President of the Constitutional Court, by means of electronic communication devices. During the state of emergency, the President of the Constitutional Court is allowed to authorise departures from the body’s normal procedural protocol.
The legislation also contains provisions related to elections, including that if the board of councillors of a local government or of the self-government of a national minority decides on its dissolution, this decision will only take effect from the day following the end of the state of emergency. No by-elections can be held during the state of emergency, and any already scheduled elections will be cancelled. Non-scheduled and postponed elections must be scheduled within 15 days of the end of the state of emergency. Until the cessation of the state of emergency, no national or local referenda can be held, and any already scheduled referenda will be cancelled.
At the same time, the Penal Code is supplemented with rules relating to the act of hindering disease control efforts and scaremongering. Henceforth, the Penal Code lays down that anyone who hinders the implementation of disease control isolation, observation, quarantine or monitoring ordered with a view to preventing the introduction or spread of a communicable disease coming under compulsory quarantine or imposed during an epidemic is punishable with a prison sentence extending to three years. If the same crime is committed in a group, imprisonment extends from one to five years, while if the same crime causes fatalities, the punishment is imprisonment for two to eight years.
Anyone who makes preparations for hindering a disease control measure is punishable with imprisonment for up to one year.
A person who, during the special legal order, utters or publishes before the public at large a statement they know to be false which is capable of hindering or frustrating the effectiveness of the containment effort is punishable by imprisonment for one to five years.
The Act on the Containment of the Coronavirus takes effect on the day following its promulgation. Parliament will decide on the repeal of the legislation upon the end of the state of emergency.
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