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Minister Hojs: the Ministry of the Interior is preparing a new ordinance in response to the Constitutional Court’s decision

Today’s afternoon press conference on the current situation regarding COVID-19 was attended by Minister of the Interior Aleš Hojs.

Following yesterday’s Constitutional Court decision staying the ban on public gatherings, the Ministry of the Interior prepared a proposal for a new ordinance, which was presented by Minister Hojs.

By way of introduction, the Minister stated that the petition to initiate the procedure for a review of constitutionality had been submitted by two Sanja Fidler, who has been fined for organising several rallies in the past, and Irfan Beširević, who identified himself as an occupier of the Rog factory building, stating in the petition that he was unable to express his disagreement about the eviction at the Rog factory due to the ban on public gatherings.

The Minister highlighted that the purpose of the ordinance was to limit socialising, prevent the spread of COVID-19, reduce the number of infections and deaths, and relieve the pressure on the healthcare system. In drafting the ordinance, the Government relied on the Communicable Diseases Act, which allows for such restrictions, and also indirectly took into account the Constitution.

In response to the petition for the review of constitutionality, the Government highlighted the latest expert studies. In this regard, the Minister mentioned the Nature Human Behaviour journal, in which six key steps to prevent the epidemic were identified in December 2020: restriction of contacts, closure of education institutions, introduction of measures at borders, general access to protective equipment, restrictions on movement for individuals and a general "lockdown".

In its decision, the Constitutional Court found that the negative effects on freedom of expression, which are linked to the possibility of organising gatherings, could have a worse impact on the society than health-related consequences. The Court decided that expressing opinions is a priority that takes precedence over public health and, according to the Minister, the Government is obliged to follow such a decision.

In his opinion, this has now become the responsibility of the Constitutional Court. As the Constitutional Court stated in its decision that different epidemiological measures exist that could be used at gatherings to prevent potential harmful effects on human health, the Minister expects the Constitutional Court to send materials supporting this statement to the Government. The Government has no knowledge of any such measures, he added.

Furthermore, Minister Hojs announced that the proposed new ordinance would be adopted at a correspondence session later today. It will enter into force on 19 April at midnight.

Since the Constitutional Court’s decision refers solely to gatherings, the Minister expects the Government to discuss other forms of assembly (weddings, celebrations, etc.) next week.

He went on to explain that this decision allows people to assemble at organised events under the Organised Assemblies Act stipulating similar restrictions as other measures:

- for gatherings in closed spaces one person per 30 m2 is allowed. More than one person is allowed if the persons are from the same household. However, the total number must not exceed 100.

- for outdoor gatherings one person per 10 m2 is allowed; or maximum 100.

Masks are mandatory in closed spaces but not outdoors when a distance of more than 1.5 m is maintained.

Minister Hojs compared this decision to those issued by the constitutional courts in France and Germany. Taking into account the population size, the French Constitutional Court limited gatherings to 155 persons, and the German Constitutional Court to 50, adding that it considers this figure to be too small. The Minister pointed to the fact that, at the time, the 7-day incidence rate in France was 4.5 and in Germany 152, but the rate in Slovenia is 314.