Three years in prison for quarantine violation: 'Coronavirus penalties' for Ukrainians

Author : Anna Peshkova

Source : 112 Ukraine

Following Lviv and Odesa, the Kyiv City Administration announced the quarantine closure of shopping centers, restaurants, cafes, bars, gyms and other establishments, as well as a ban on events. Pharmacies, gas stations, grocery stores and banks will remain open
22:27, 17 March 2020

The Ministry of Health wants to spread these rules throughout Ukraine and is proposing the bill “On counteracting the spread of dangerous and especially dangerous infectious diseases in Ukraine.” With its help, Ukrainians with symptoms of infection are going to be forced to stay home, and business to stop its operations for three months.

So far, the initiative can only be judged on the basis of statements by officials: its text is not yet available on the Rada’s website. Nevertheless, amendments of the Ministry of Interior are available, which advocates for tougher punitive sanctions. Despite the lack of a full text, they plan to consider the initiative at an extraordinary plenary meeting. And given the factor of the mono-majority, the idea has extremely high chances to be implemented.

It is very likely that fines for non-compliance with quarantine will be increased for business and ordinary Ukrainians.

Penalties for the sick

To begin with, there is no punishment for healthy citizens who want to leave their homes, although there are rumors in the media that such restrictions are still being discussed. So far, Ukrainians are only asked to act responsible.

In Spain, by comparison, residents are strictly forbidden to take to the streets without permission. The exception is a trip for groceries, to a pharmacy and to work. Otherwise, you can get a fine of up to 2 000 euros, or even go to jail. But you need to understand that this country is the second in Europe after Italy in terms of the spread of the disease. In Ukraine, only a few cases of infection have been registered so far.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs proposes to fine Ukrainians if they do not report symptoms of the disease. If we recall how the passengers of aircraft from Italy brought down the temperature with antipyretics, the introduction of responsibility for such a deception seems logical. But a fine from 170 to 425 hryvnias (15 USD) weakly motivates honesty.

For deliberately infecting other citizens the Ministry of Internal Affairs propose restricting freedom for a period of three months to five years, or imprisoning for three years. The chairman of the Rada’s committee on national health, Mykhailo Radutsky, says that this rule applies only to those who receive a certificate confirming the disease. But still the question remains: how can one prove that it was this person who caused the infection of other citizens?

In neighboring Russia, for comparison, people are not sent to prison for such a violation. Authorities introduced a fine of 80 000 rubles (1 000 USD), up to 360 hours of compulsory work, or up to a year of restriction of freedom.

If the MPs pass the law, then patients who hide the sources of infection and those who were in contact with them will be fined from 85 to 255 hryvnias (9 USD). Apparently, this rule is introduced out of fears that a person will “save” acquaintances from observation for two weeks. Will such fines be enough motivation to prevent people from hiding info on the health of their loved ones? The question is rhetorical.

For those who try to escape from observation or from self-isolation authorities also want to complicate the punishment. If now the fine for violating the quarantine is up to 1 700 hryvnias (60 USD), then the Ministry of Health proposes to increase it tenfold: from 17 to 34 000 hryvnias (607 - 1200 USD).

This is not the largest amount. In the Czech Republic you can get a fine of up to 130 000 dollars, in Israel - for 5,000 shekels (1250 USD), in Germany - for 450 000 euros.

And the Ministry of Internal Affairs proposes not to limit themselves to fines and put offenders in jail for three years. There is also a prison term for such misconduct in many countries around the world. Violator of quarantine in Italy could face imprisonment for 21 years, in Russia - for 5 years, in China - up to life imprisonment or death penalty.

True, it is not entirely clear what will be done in Ukraine with the arrested fugitive if he is really sick?

“There should be a court session which lawyers and prosecutors will attend. Where and how will they keep him at this time? This populism will do more harm than good,” says lawyer Rostislav Kravets.

Related: Could Covid-19 change situation in Ukraine for the better?

However, the managing partner of Bires Law Firm, Roman Shakhmatenko, proposes this scenario: first, the person is returned to the hospital bed, and after his treatment he is sent to serve their term. But the lawyer does not talk on real prison sentences.

“I do not think that the goal of this project is to imprison. Rather, its tasks are preventive, from the category of “intimidating," says Shakhmatenko.

Sanctions for restaurants, gyms and shopping centers

As for business, there is no document that provides for a large-scale ban on its activities.

“We heard statements from law enforcement officers, and even read the protocols of the commissions. But note that there is no document. Any decision must be motivated and made by a specially authorized person, and also be based on specific norms of the law. When we see the document, then we will analyze its legitimacy,” says Maxym Baryshnikov, specialist in medical law.

Experts say that private institutions can be closed due to epidemic without new legislation. As for the churches, the activities of which are covered by the new ban, we can forget about the state’s non-interference in the religious sphere. True, a state of emergency has not yet been declared. However, lawyers are considering the possibility of some resistance to the religious sphere due to the development of decentralization reform.

With mass events, everything is more complicated. Lawyers say that the law does not define their criteria, so theoretically the ban can be circumvented. But the new bill does not seem to introduce criteria.

With regard to specific fines for business, the current legislative provisions imply administrative liability (up to a maximum of 8 500 hryvnias – 303 USD) and imprisonment in case of violation of quarantine conditions. The maximum term of restriction of freedom is up to eight years. Such sanctions are provided for in article 325 of the Criminal Code on violation of sanitary rules and norms for the prevention of infectious diseases and mass poisoning.

Also today, Article 137 establishes the responsibility of citizens to protect the life and health of children, according to which a fine of up to 850 hryvnias (30 USD) or community service for a period of up to 240 hours is possible. So, private kindergartens that continue to function despite the ban may be fined.

Amendments to the new bill by the Ministry of Internal Affairs also introduce punishment for “deliberately creating conditions for another person under which he risks becoming infected." The offender to face imprisonment from 3 months to 3 years or restriction of freedom to 5 years. Thus, if at least one store employee works without a mask or antiseptic, the store owner can be held accountable.

But the bill should facilitate business financial issue.

“Cafes, bars must pay rent even if they do not work. General phenomena, such as a pandemic, quarantine, martial law are not automatic force majeure. The business will have to inform the creditor that, as a result of quarantine implementation, compliance with the conditions is physically impossible. He will prove the impossibility of its functioning to the Industrial Chamber,” says Shakhmatenko.

The Chamber of Industry has previously stated that each case will be considered individually. This means that the courts could be inundated with work. The bill also proposes to attribute the outbreak of infection to force majeure, that is, to save businesses and courts from unnecessary trouble.

The Verkhovna Rada also plans to separately consider a bill of the financial committee on tax deferment and the abolition of tax fines under quarantine, which is good news for entrepreneurs.

Unprofessionalism of doctors and officials

The Ministry of Internal Affairs proposes to fine doctors who refuse to examine people with symptoms of infection in the amount from 170 to 425 hryvnia (15 USD). If the doctor refuses to treat a person who is sick, the fine can grow up to 850 hryvnia (30 USD). According to the initiative, in the case when the patient died from lack of treatment, the doctor will go to prison for 2 to 5 years.

Doctors who talked with, believe that such decisions cannot be made in a couple of days or even weeks. Before introducing such restrictions, it is necessary to seriously consider legislation. They also assure that this measure is not necessary.

And yet, there are doubts about the dedication of doctors. Epidemiologist Olga Holubeva spoke about the practice of working in the hospital, where the patient with an ebola appeared. Despite the training of staff, the institution experienced a real panic right up to refusals from work. Will 30 USD outweigh the doctor’s fear of their own health?

“The issue of fines always depends on the average income of the population. Fines are not needed to punish anyone, but to prevent an offense. Calculating the required amount is quite difficult. 30 USD is a lot of money for a paramedic in a village, but not for a doctor at a central hospital in Kyiv,” says Roman Shakhmatenko.

Officials hiding or deliberately misrepresenting information about the incidence might be fined 1 700 hryvnias (61 USD) or go to jail for up to 3 years, followed by a ban on holding certain posts. After some time after the outbreak of coronavirus, Italian authorities began to attribute this disease to all the dead, which falls within the act of misinformation.

“As for disinfection, I would be careful, since all state authorities are prone to disseminate knowingly false information. In general, I support the strengthening of discipline in healthcare and emergency situations. If protection measures are not provided in a medical institution, then it should also hold accountable officials in departments, regions, and cities. It’s wrong to force some to be responsible, while others consider themselves free from this,” says Maxym Baryshnikov.

So far, in Ukraine the only case has been opened against officials of the Kharkiv City Council who refused to impose quarantine in the city. No one answered for the insufficient provision of hospitals with remedies.

The main question remains: how exactly do the authorities plan to use the sword of justice? The Interior Ministry said that law enforcement officers will be able to carry out raids and receive “signals from citizens”. It can be assumed that they will look into the windows of institutions and listen to denunciations, and the authorities will make ratings at the high-profile closures of institutions.

Related: Respiratory masks will be distributed in Kyiv for free when available, - city hall

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