Protection from Infectious Diseases
On November 12th, 2020, The National Assembly adopted Amendments to the Law on Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases (“Law“).
The Law was published the next day in the “Official Gazette of RS” no. 136/2020 when it came into force. The changes concern the powers of the competent authorities, starting from the communal militiamen to the minister, the policy of punishment, but also the specification of important concepts and general prevention measures. The goal is to improve the legal provisions that are crucial in the fight against disease caused by the Covid-19 virus.
New definitions of terms in the Law
- Countries with an unfavourable epidemiological situation are countries affected by an epidemic of a contagious disease, which, for the purpose of protection against the importation of the infection into the territory of the Republic of Serbia, are determined by an act of the Minister of Health, at the proposal of the Institute of Public Health;
- Personal protection against infection is the duty of each individual to take measures of personal protection of their own health and life in accordance with the nature of the disease, and due to non-compliance which may endanger the health and lives of others from infectious diseases;
- Home isolation is anti-epidemic measure of isolating, at home, infected persons without symptoms or with a manifest disease that does not require hospital treatment, during the period of virulence, in a way to prevent or limit direct or indirect transmission, or possible transmission of infectious agent to other persons. The measure of home isolation is applied during epidemics of infectious diseases of greater epidemiological significance, in accordance with the Law and other regulations. The measure of home isolation is ordered by a doctor specializing in infectious diseases or another doctor of medicine in accordance with the order of the Minister, which informs the epidemiologist of the territorially competent institute, ie the Institute of Public Health or other competent health institutions.
- Quarantine at home is a measure of limiting activities in order to monitor the health of contacts, ie. healthy persons who have been exposed to a case of an infectious disease during the period of virulence, with the aim of preventing the spread of an infectious disease. Quarantine at home is a measure that restricts freedom of movement and requires monitoring of the health status of healthy persons who were or are suspected of being in contact with persons infected with a contagious disease, unless a quarantine measure is imposed on those persons. The person to whom the quarantine measure is determined at home is given a notification by the doctor of medicine, specialist in epidemiology, about the duration of quarantine at home, the manner of behaviour and other facts important for the implementation of that measure. The duration of quarantine at home is determined during the maximum incubation period of a certain infectious disease, starting from the moment of the last exposure to the source of infection. If the quarantine measure at home is determined for a child under the age of 14 or a person who is not able to take care of himself and the protection of his rights and interests, the decision is issued to the parent or guardian.
- Preventive measure of restriction of freedom of movement of persons in collective accommodation with the aim of preventing the importation of infection into the collective ordered by the Minister in case of an epidemic of infectious diseases of greater epidemiological significance, if there are indications. This measure can be ordered for all types and all objects of collective accommodation or especially for collectives in which persons are at increased risk of severe forms of illness and death due to infection. The control of the application of the measure is performed by the sanitary inspector, in accordance with the Law.
New powers of the Government of the Republic of Serbia
In the event of a pandemic or epidemic of a contagious disease of major epidemiological significance, the emergence of a new or insufficiently known infectious disease and in case of suspected use of a biological agent, etc., which may endanger human health and life and in which there is an imminent danger of mass transmission of infectious diseases, the Government can:
- prohibit or restrict entry into the territory of the Republic of Serbia to persons coming from countries with unfavourable epidemiological situation, determine the conditions for entry and measures to be applied during the stay in the territory of the Republic of Serbia, the circle of persons to whom certain conditions and measures apply, and the manner of control of implementation, executors and means for implementation and those measures;
- decide on the opening of temporary facilities for accommodation, isolation and treatment of patients with infectious diseases, when the existing capacities of health institutions and facilities are not sufficient for isolation and treatment of persons suffering from infectious diseases, as well as providing the necessary equipment, medicines and medical supplies, the manner of providing medical and non-medical staff, ensuring the safety of temporary facilities and other issues of importance for their functioning;
- decide on sending infectious disease patients for treatment abroad in case of full capacity of isolation and treatment facilities in the Republic of Serbia, on seeking assistance from other countries and international organizations and on providing assistance to other countries affected by the epidemic in providing necessary equipment, medicines and medical supplies, temporary posting of missing medical and non-medical staff and other issues of importance for stopping the epidemic, ie pandemic and treatment and protection of the population from infectious diseases;
- form the crisis headquarters and determine other appropriate measures to stop the epidemic, ie pandemic and treatment and protection of the population from infectious diseases, as well as the conditions, manner of implementation and perpetrators.
Novelties in the supervision over the implementation of the Law
Until now, the supervision was carried out exclusively by the sanitary inspection, which receives a new authorization, so in the future it will be able to issue a misdemeanour order in the procedure of performing control.
In addition to sanitary inspection, in case of declaring an epidemic of greater epidemiological significance on a larger scale, the local self-government unit also performs the entrusted work through the communal inspection, and in local self-government units where the communal militia service is formed, it also controls the application of measures through the communal militia.
In performing inspection supervision over the application of measures from this Law, the communal inspector and the communal militiaman have the authorizations from the regulations governing inspection supervision, and especially to issue a misdemeanour order, to report to the competent authority, ie a request to the competent authority to initiate misdemeanour proceedings in accordance with the Law and to inform the other authority of the reasons for taking measures for which that authority is competent.
When there are reasons of urgency due to the immediate threat to human life and health, or in cases of non-compliance with prescribed measures during the epidemic of greater epidemiological significance on a larger scale, in terms of gathering people contrary to regulations, inspection bodies and communal police officer, may verbally order measures and actions on which the successful performance of tasks determined or entrusted by this Law directly depends, and in particular:
- to order the emptying of the facility, ie the space in which the prescribed measures have been violated;
- to prohibit the performance of activities in the facility, ie the area in which the measure was violated until the competent authority takes the prescribed measures, for a maximum of 72 hours.
Misdemeanours were introduced in case of non-compliance with the measures of personal protection against infection provided by Law, and the fine is 150,000.00 RSD for entrepreneurs, 300,000.00 RSD for legal entities, and the responsible persons in the legal entity are also subject to misdemeanour liability and punishment. An individual can be fined in the amount of 5000.00 RSD in case of non-compliance with this measure, which in the case of Corona virus refers to not wearing a mask.
The misdemeanour is prescribed in case of non-compliance with the obligation of a person coming from one of the countries where certain contagious diseases are present if he does not report to the competent health service, ie the bodies responsible for controlling the crossing of the country border, as well as if they do not report to the competent institute, ie institute for public health. The misdemeanour is also prescribed if the person, in accordance with the issued decision of the sanitary inspector, does not report to the institute or institute for public health according to the place of residence within 24 hours or refuses or does not adhere to quarantine at home, determined in accordance with the Law. A fine in the range of RSD 50,000.00 to RSD 150,000.00 is prescribed.
One of the most important innovations is the possibility of extraordinary immunization of the population. Vaccination may be recommended or mandatory. It is ordered by an act of the Minister, in accordance with the recommendations of the World Health Organization, at the proposal of the Institute of Public Health of Serbia and with the consent of the Republic Expert Commission for Infectious Diseases.
Besides, in the amended Law, by adding the phrase “other contagious diseases”, the Minister of Health can also order vaccination in the event of a Corona virus pandemic.