Tallinn, Stenbock House, 2 April 2020 – Today, the government approved and will submit to the Riigikogu the draft legislation consolidating the amendments to the law developed for the implementation of COVID-19 control measures. It is planned to submit the draft legislation to the Riigikogu along with the draft supplementary state budget act for 2020 and the draft legislation on the related amendments to the law. The majority of the Riigikogu has to vote in favour in order for the act to pass.
An overview of the most important changes:
In the administrative field of the Ministry of Education and Research: the draft legislation on the amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act makes the procedure for conducting state examinations and basic school final examinations more flexible, i.e. how and when to organise the final examinations.
The same draft legislation makes the evaluation of students studying remotely more flexible. Throughout the basic and upper secondary schools, it will be possible to use descriptive verbal evaluations to assess learning during the emergency situation, which do not need to be converted to a five-point scale
In the administrative field of the Ministry of Social Affairs: the draft amendment to the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act allows for work in certain areas of activity without a health certificate during the emergency situation. People whose medical certificate expires during the emergency situation can also continue working. This applies, for example, to food handlers, teachers, employees of child care institutions, social workers, and others who normally have to undergo regular medical examinations.
The Victim Support Act creates an opportunity to, for example, involve volunteers and recruit people during the emergency situation who do not have professional training. The Victim Support Act also expands the circle of people to whom counselling services may be provided during the emergency situation.
The amendment to the Medicinal Products Act gives the State Agency of Medicines the right to temporarily restrict the dispensing of medicinal products in the emergency situation and to grant exemptions from the requirements for handling medicinal products, clinical trials of medicinal products, and submission of information on medicinal products. This allows, for example, for the accelerated deployment of COVID-19 tests.
The amendments to the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act give the Unemployment Insurance Fund the right of discretion to waive the reclamation of benefits if the reclamation of benefits is caused by objective obstacles arising from the emergency situation.
In the administrative field of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications: amendments to the Road Transport Act and other laws (Traffic Act, Maritime Safety Act, Railways Act, Chemicals Act, Explosive Substances Act) provide for special rules for the application of health and training certificates in the COVID-19 emergency situation in various areas related to transport and other major sources of danger. For example, in order to replace or exchange a driving license, a medical certificate is not required during the emergency situation, but the driver must be physically and mentally able to drive.
The amendment to the Electronic Communications Act clarifies the regulation of hazard notifications via mobile phones, enabling the sending of hazard notifications to roaming service users, i.e. European Union citizens and foreigners staying in Estonia, whose lives and health could be endangered if not notified.
In the administrative field of the Ministry of Finance: the amendment to the Guarantee Fund Act allows meetings of the Supervisory Board of the Guarantee Fund to be held electronically. Under current law, there is no such possibility.
The amendment to the Local Government Financial Management Act temporarily increases the upper limit of the net debt burden for local governments. In the years 2020–2021, the net debt burden of a local government at the end of the accounting year may reach 80% of operating revenue instead of the previous 60%, and up to 100% for the more capable ones. The change will allow local governments to complete planned investments that were meant to be financed from loans, but the upper limit would have become an obstacle due to declining revenues.
In the administrative field of the Ministry of the Environment: the amendment to the Water Act helps to solve the problems that arise due to the emergency situation in meeting the requirements of environmental permits. It is important that, in the event of a shortage of people, chemicals, and protective equipment, water companies first direct their resources to providing drinking water to people, even if this leads to a momentary relaxation of some environmental requirements.
The amendment to the Land Cadastre Act ensures the availability of surface surveying works both during and after the emergency situation.
The amendment to the Nature Conservation Act allows the Environmental Board to send notifications and procedural documents regarding the placing of objects under protection during the emergency situation by ordinary letter instead of by registered letter, thus avoiding additional contacts.
In the administrative field of the Ministry of Justice: the draft legislation amending the Bankruptcy Act seeks to suspend the obligation for companies to submit a petition for bankruptcy during the emergency situation and for a subsequent two-month period and to establish a ban on creditors for submitting a bankruptcy petition. The amendment gives companies the opportunity to adapt their economic activities to the situation and additional time to use the state aid measures in order to prevent the mass filing of bankruptcy petitions.
In accordance with the amendment to the Code of Civil Procedure, the term for placement in a closed institution is suspended for a period starting from the declaration of the emergency situation due to the coronavirus and ending two months after the end of the emergency situation. The amendment applies to mentally ill persons placed in a care institution whose due date for placement in a closed institution arrives during the emergency situation or within two months after the end of the emergency situation.
The Imprisonment Act is supplemented with the possibility to impose a ban on persons visiting a prison in the events directly endangering the general security of the prison or the execution of imprisonment.
The Codes of Criminal and Misdemeanour Procedure will be amended to reduce physical contact between people during procedural acts, e.g. the regulation of telehearing will be extended.
Ten laws will be amended on the proposal of the Ministry of the Interior. The changes are important in order to better cope with the emergency situation in the country and to keep different services available to people. In addition, opportunities will be created to involve others in resolving the crisis more effectively. For example, amendments to the Assistant Police Officer Act allow for the quicker involvement and training of assistant police officers in the emergency situation.
When resolving the emergency situation, it is possible to process personal data, including special categories of personal data, differently than usual, proceeding from the general principles of personal data protection.
In order to resolve the emergency situation and protect public order more effectively, the State of Emergency Act, the Emergency Act, and the Law Enforcement Act will be amended, giving the involved members of the Defence Forces and the Defence League district the same rights to use special measures as assistant police officers.
On the proposal of the Minister of Population, amendments are made to the Family Benefits Act that affect the time of payment of the difference between parental benefit and maternity benefit in case of successive births, so that the persons entitled to the benefits receive it as soon as possible after the birth of a child. From now on, in the case of successive births, the difference between parental benefit and maternity benefit can be paid as soon as the child is born and the mother is granted parental benefit on their behalf, as the family’s financial situation can be difficult during the emergency situation.
Amendments to the Weapons Act ensure that weapons permits expiring during the emergency situation continue to be valid until the end of the emergency situation and for 60 days as of the end of the emergency situation.
The Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens, the Aliens Act, and the Obligation to Leave and Prohibition on Entry Act will be amended to prevent a situation where there are a large number of aliens staying illegally in Estonia after the end of the emergency situation.
In the administrative field of the Ministry of Defence: the amendment to the Defence League Act makes it possible to continue carrying a weapon of a member of the Defence League even if it is not possible to pass a medical examination taking into account the measures of the emergency situation or a state of emergency.
An additional basis for extending the term for making a decision to issue an access permit or extend its validity will be added to the State Secrets and Classified Information of Foreign States Act.