The Czech government re-declared a state of emergency for two weeks to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision comes in defiance of the lower house of Parliament, which has refused the minority government’s request to extend the powerful tool that gives the Cabinet the extra powers needed to impose nationwide restrictions and limit people’s travel and rights.
Despite the dire situation, some lawyers and politicians, including Milos Vystrcil, the Senate speaker, say the government’s move violates the country’s Constitution.
The government denies that, saying its legal advisers support such a solution.
“I’m really glad that common sense has won,” the country’s prime minister Andrej Babiš said.
The current state of emergency would have expired on Sunday.
The government could use other legal options to reimpose some coronavirus restrictions but not all of them.
Without the state of emergency, service businesses could resume, the nighttime curfew would end and a ban on more than two people gathering in public would be cancelled.
“We can’t afford that to happen,” Babiš said.
The government warned that the restrictions are needed to keep the country’s outbreak from getting worse and causing the health system to collapse.
Sunday’s move comes at the request of the leaders of all 14 Czech regions, who say they do have not enough powers to fight the pandemic.
“I’d like to thank the governors, who understand that it’s of the utmost importance for us to do the maximum to protect the lives of our citizens,” Babiš said.
The governors also requested changes in the government’s approach to the pandemic, including mass testing of employees financed by the state, a gradual return of children to schools in March, and new legislation that would define the state’s responsibilities in fighting the pandemic.
Babiš also said his government will meet the opposition on Tuesday to discuss further steps.
The lower house still has a right to dismiss the government’s step.