Law on combating coronavirus in Ukraine: fines and benefits for population

Author : Anna Peshkova

Source : 112 Ukraine

At an extraordinary plenary meeting of the Verkhovna Rada, the MPs took as a basis and generally another initiative on “preventing the spread of coronavirus disease” introduced by nine members of parliament. What awaits Ukrainians who violate quarantine conditions, and what concessions were promised to ordinary citizens and businesses?
23:27, 18 March 2020

After the introduction of quarantine, the issue of fines for its non-compliance and concessions for business appeared. For several days, MPs and representatives of the Cabinet worked on their versions of the law in order to comply with epidemiological measures. The bill of the Ministry of Health amended by the Ministry of Internal Affairs turned out to be especially scandalous. According to it a wide range of sanctions for citizens in connection with the coronavirus was introduced. Patients who escaped from the observation and doctors who refused to treat those infected with Covid-19 were offered to be imprisoned.

At an extraordinary plenary meeting of the Verkhovna Rada, the MPs took as a basis and generally another initiative on “preventing the spread of coronavirus disease” introduced by nine members of parliament, including Mykhailo Radutsky, head of the Health Committee. He claims that the final initiative was a compromise for all factions and groups, therefore there was no discussion.

What awaits Ukrainians who violate quarantine conditions, and what concessions were promised to ordinary citizens and businesses?

Punishment for violation of quarantine

You need to understand that the bill is temporary and created specifically for a case of the virus. There has been a long discussion in the expert community about whether initiatives specifically for Covid-19, angina and other diseases are needed. Most experts think negatively. Especially due to the fact that now there is all the necessary legislation.

If earlier for violation of the quarantine conditions people could be fined 1 700 hryvnias (63 USD), then in the case of the coronavirus, MPs did not trifle and increased fines to amounts from 17 to 34 000 hryvnias (1260 USD). About the same fine has Israel, and in the Czech Republic it amounts to 123 000 hryvnias (4555 USD). But you must understand that in Israel and the Czech Republic the average income of the population is higher than in Ukraine. For some socially unprotected citizens, such a fine is a six-month salary.

Experts argue that the text of the law from the first lines is unclear. Previously, in judicial practice, the restriction applied only to representatives of state bodies, local authorities, and various institutions. Ordinary Ukrainians could not be fined for violations of sanitary conditions. Radutsky declares that the norm will apply to everyone, but this is not written out in detail. The extensiveness of the initiative is proved by separate fines for officials up to 170 000 hryvnias (6297 USD). But this does not correct the gaps of the law.

The law does not establish a list of actions that can be considered a violation of quarantine conditions. For example, the Ministry of Health had ideas to identify patients who hide sources of infection, as well as fugitives from observation or self-isolation.

Based on the general wording on violation of quarantine conditions, everything depends on specific decisions of local authorities. In fact, if they decide on a ban on leaving home, and you violate this ban, you can lose at least 17 000 hryvnias (630 USD). For now, state of emergency is necessary for such instructions. Zelensky says that it can indeed be announced if necessary.

The only clarification in the initiative is about actions that could “deliberately lead” to infection of others. In this case, the fine can increase to 51 000 hryvnias (1890 USD), restrictions or imprisonment for up to three years.

The wording means the deliberate infection of other citizens. But it is quite blurry. Mykhailo  Radutsky previously announced the wording of deliberately infecting other citizens with an infection. He clarified that this applies to those who receive a certificate confirming the disease, but do not isolate themselves from people.

Since this condition is not written out in the law, it seems that it is precisely this norm that should be paid attention not only by sick citizens, but also by business. In fact, if it opens its doors during quarantine, it can “obviously lead to infection”.

If a person died as a result of quarantine violations, then you can be imprisoned for a period of 5 to 10 years. In Italy, such actions face imprisonment for 21 years, in China - up to life imprisonment or the death penalty. True, it is not clear how to prove that a particular subject has caused infection of other citizens.

“Proving the wrongdoing will be hard. In any case, already now there is a responsibility for non-compliance with sanitary standards. I don’t think that it will come to criminal liability,” says lawyer Rostyslav Kravets.

The issue of abuse by law enforcement officials, which can put pressure on business representatives, is still valid. The State Sanitary and Epidemiological Service would have to monitor quarantine compliance, but it has been eliminated, so the Ministry of the Interior will take over the checks. The committee raised the issue of corruption, but Radutsky expressed confidence that MPs would not allow abuse to happen. What relation the lawmakers have to the observance of their initiatives is unknown.

Benefits for the population

But for a simple Ukrainian, not only fines, but also some concessions are prescribed. For example, the law clearly states that the duration of a vacation on an employee’s consent for quarantine is not included in the total term. Official employees will be able to get 50% of their salary. Also work at home is normalized.

The certificate of the internally displaced person will not be canceled. Illegals will not be touched during quarantine either. True, some difficulties would be linked with obtaining administrative and other services. That is, it will take longer to wait for a biometric passport.

Related: Enterprise managers have no right to force employees to quit during quarantine

For incomplete payment for utilities, no one will turn off the lights and cut water supply. Within two days, legislation will be introduced according to which no one can deprive subsidies for the period of quarantine. They will also be renewed automatically, even if you did not apply for them. In addition, officials promise to expand the number of subsidies.

According to the new law, during the quarantine period it will not be possible to evict a person from housing and take it away. Including clearly stated that they will not touch the mortgage collateral.

The situation is quite controversial. On the one hand, this is positive for ordinary citizens who are in a difficult situation. On the other hand, just a month ago, the authorities promised to lower interest rates on mortgages. They wanted to achieve this by “talking with the banks”. But the interest on mortgages in our country is high, in particular because the business does not know what to expect tomorrow.

As for the doctors, they, at the initiative of the Ministry of Health, will be fined and even go to jail for refusing to treat those infected with coronavirus. But no fines will become more important for a person than his life. So the authorities agreed on a “carrot” instead of a “stick”. Doctors will receive a triple salary during the elimination of the epidemic.

Salary surcharges are also being introduced for certain categories that ensure the livelihoods of the population. What kind of categories are these and what kind of surcharges will be given – this was not prescribed in the law.

Can the state found such additional costs in the face of a budget deficit?

The economist Oleg Pendzin refers to the economic and political history of Ukraine and recalls that such promises in a limited budget are not uncommon.

“With regard to the failure to fulfill obligations by the state, Honcharuk (ex-prime minister, - ed.) did not index pensions, because there is no money in the budget, and postponed payments until September. And then the president announces 1 000 hryvnias (37 USD) in connection with quarantine to each pensioner with pension up to 5 000 (185 USD). That is, 3 billion UAH were not found for indexation, but 10 billion were found now. Maybe this is because the president’s initiative is one-time, and if indexed, pensioners will gratefully recall his predecessors? ”

The promises of the government do not end there. MPs will also have to submit to the Verkhovna Rada a bill on social economic protection of the population. But, in fact, this paragraph of the law does not mean anything, since developing an initiative is one thing, and accepting it is another. What specifically can be discussed is not yet clear. Rather, it is an announcement for the media.

It should be noted that usually in the conditions of a budget deficit, the necessary funds to protect the population were given by oligarchs. Now they are silent and do not make PR even on humanitarian aid.

Masks and tests - without tenders

The main goal of the new law is not even to establish benefits and fines for the population, but to standardize purchases. During seasonal epidemic rises, two-thirds of physicians usually fall ill. Given that most of them are older people who work constantly under stress, the low readiness of hospitals to coronavirus is extremely dangerous for them. Therefore, it is necessary to provide hospitals with protective equipment.

The Ministry of Health declares that it is impossible to expedite the procurement process, unless they are removed from the Prozorro system. Then you can buy equipment and medicines by negotiation procedure from the seller, who will offer the fastest delivery times.

Manufacturers of medicines and equipment that will be included in the Cabinet’s list will receive money from the state in advance. Tenders will not take place until April 18, but the customer will have to post all reports on the site. For non-publication of tender documentation, violation of the procedure for publishing procurement information, liability is imposed. The drugs necessary for the epidemic will not be taxed with value added, imports - with import duties.

The same law provides that the Cabinet of Ministers will control drug prices, but there is still room for abuse. There may also still be problems with the provision of drugs, as some of the funds listed are not registered as medical devices, and even with tenders they can be difficult to get.

Business without paying part of taxes

As for the rest of the business, against the background of the limitations of its work, the issue of compensators was especially acute, since global quarantine threats the Ukrainian economy. And finally, this issue was raised.

Quarantine does not automatically apply to force majeure circumstances, which means that cafes and bars pay rent, even if they do not work. The law establishes quarantine by force majeure, so that business will not have to prove the impossibility of its functioning. If this decision were not made, it is highly likely that the courts would be inundated with work.

“The law is, in principle, interesting, useful. It is good that the controversial norms that were discussed earlier have not yet been implemented. They finally heard that it was first of all necessary to solve the problem of real estate taxes, zeroing penalties and interest, delaying cash registers, and also, without waiting for a decision from bankers, they canceled fines and penalties for loan obligations,” says Kravets.

Kravets believes that this is the first step towards taxpayers, and expects the introduction of additional lending measures, as well as programs that will launch the real sector of the economy.

However, economists are not so positive in assessing innovations and consider them to be half measures.

“MPs promised to business something simple for the state and meaningless for the business itself. Business, especially the public services sector, faced a shock of income and a shock of costs (rent, loans and salaries to employees). How would be these problems solved by the measures, proposed by parliament?” says Oleksiy Kushch.

The expert says that the abolition of tax on land and real estate is relevant for a large business that has industrial workshops. It will not bring special concessions for small and medium-sized businesses. Canceled checks for small and medium-sized businesses were not a problem before. Moreover, some of them are planned and a year before the meeting they fall into a special register where you can track who will be checked. The lack of fines, in his opinion, will also not make the business more stress-resistant.

The coronavirus power initiative is not so much a Frankenstein monster as its predecessor. It carries positive meanings for the population and business. But will minimal tax breaks and subsidies become sufficient compensation for gigantic fines and inspections? We’ll see.

Related: COVID-19: Chinese vaccine approved for human testing at virus epicenter

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