Lawmakers on Monday passed a law that grants the government enhanced powers to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.
Among the measures, flouting quarantine regulations is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Also, anyone who disseminates fake news or distorted information in a way that obstructs the effectiveness of the response to the epidemic is a crime punishable by 1-5 years in prison.
The bill passed with 137 votes in favour and 53 against in a fast-tracked procedure. Submitted by the justice minister, the bill passed with the required two-thirds of votes.
The law will come into effect on Tuesday and will end by a decision of parliament once the state of emergency has been declared over.
The new legislation allows the government to take steps that deviate from regulations to ensure people’s health, legal security and economic stability. It also keeps in force measures the government has taken so far. It allows the government to prolong previously introduced epidemic-related amendments to the constitution for the duration of the emergency.
The government will regularly brief the house speaker and group leaders on the measures taken should parliament lack a quorum.
The new legislation will allow Hungary’s Constitutional Court to continue working during the state of emergency. Meetings will take place on electronic platforms if necessary, and the court’s head can choose to deviate from standard procedures.
All elections, by-elections and referendums will be postponed and held within 15 days of the end of the state of emergency.
President János Áder on Monday signed the law that grants the government enhanced powers to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.
In a statement published on the website of the president’s office, Áder said the law accorded with the constitution and did not infringe on any international agreement.
Regarding opposition objections to the “lack of time limits” on the government’s enhanced powers, Áder insisted the new powers were not open-ended and would only last until the end of the epidemic.
As to the contents of the law, Ader said the government’s powers were limited to preventing, handling and eliminating the spread of the epidemic, as well as to mitigating its effects.
Parliament still maintains oversight, and the government is obliged to brief lawmakers about measures taken, the statement said, adding that once the epidemic is over, parliament will be responsible for deciding any special measures.
“We all know there are hard weeks ahead of us. Virus protection will remain on parliament’s agenda. So it’s important that everyone exercises restraint. This isn’t the time for political profiteering,” Áder said.