Act Amending the Act on Measures against infectious and other communicable Diseases

Date 13 mar. 2020
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Introduction

12 March 2020, the Danish Parliament fast-tracked and adopted the Danish Amending Act on measures against infectious and other communicable diseases after having been granted dispensation from the Parliament in relation to the ordinary deadline for proposing and adopting act amendments.

 

The Act amends the current Act on measures against infectious and other communicable diseases, cf. Executive Order no. 1026 of 1 October 2019 as later amended by Executive Orders nos. 156 and 157 of 27 February 2020.

 

The purpose of the Act is to assign certain authority to the Minister of Health and Elderly Care with the aim to contain and prevent the spread of highly virulent diseases and especially to mitigate the consequences of the spread of the current coronavirus COVID-19.

 

The authorities expect that a COVID-19 pandemic in Denmark will result in an extraordinary load on the country’s hospitals and ultimately result in hospitals having to prioritize among patients so that severely ill patients will be given treatment before other patients. 

 

Thus, the purpose of Act is to give the authorities the necessary means to handle and prevent this threat.

 

The Act’s Adoption

The Act will enter into force as announced in the Danish Legal Gazette and will remain in force until 1 March 2021 (a so-called sunset provision).

 

With the adoption of the Act, the authorities will, subject to certain conditions, be allowed to, i.a.:

  • Force people to stay in isolation and undergo health treatment
  • Prohibit larger assemblies
  • Close public institutions
  • Suspend patient rights, including the treatment guarantee
  • Impose restrictions on access to public transportation
  • Prohibit visitors at hospitals and nursing homes
  • Implement measures ensuring supply of goods

The scope of the Act is described in more detail below.


Scope

Power to force Isolation and Vaccination

The Act enables the health authorities to, with the backing of police, to force infected persons, or persons suspected to be infected with a highly virulent disease, to undergo health checks. Authorities are also enabled to force persons who are admitted to a treatment facility or similar suited facility as well as persons “in specific risk categories” to be vaccinated.

 

In the original proposal, the government had suggested that as part of enforcement or completion of the order above, the authorities should be allowed access to the person in question’s residence and other locations at the person in question’s disposal without having a warrant. This proposal was not passed.


Power to prohibit Gatherings

The Act enables the health authorities to prohibit all large assemblies, gatherings, events etc., including indoor s and outdoors, public and private gatherings, events etc.

 

The Act does not specify an absolute number of participants, but the government has previously urged people to avoid events with more than 100 participants.


Power to close public Institutions, including Schools and Day-Care Centres

The Act enables the health authorities to restrict access to public institutions, including schools, day-care centres, nurseries and other childcare centres, and if necessary close them.


Power to restrict Access to certain Areas and Private Business’ Access to their own Premises

The Act enables the health authorities to restrict access to entire areas in which a highly virulent disease is present, or areas in which a highly virulent disease is suspected or at risk of being present.

 

Further, the Minister may impose restrictions on persons who are resident or staying in an area as mentioned above. Such restrictions and the scope of a potential interference in the freedom of movement as well as the size of such an area will be subject to a specific assessment.

 

Moreover, any order to block certain areas in relation to highly virulent diseases may be issued only in areas in which a highly virulent disease is present or is at risk of being present.

 

As regards businesses, the Minister is empowered to prohibit access or impose restrictions on the access to or use of premises belonging to businesses and with public access, including the rules on the allowed maximum occupancy, meaning the maximum number of persons allowed to be gathered in the place in question.


Power to limit Patient Rights

The Act enables the health authorities to limit and suspend patient rights in order to ensure capacity for the treatment and care of persons infected with a highly virulent disease.

 

Specifically this means that the ordinary patient rights, including duty of examination, treatment time guarantee and the free choice of hospital may be departed from if necessary.


Power to restrict and prohibit Access to public Transportation

The Act enables the health authorities to impose rules that prohibit access to public transportation or restrict the use of public transportation, including the allowed maximum occupancy, meaning the number of persons allowed on e.g. busses or trains.

 

Further, the health authorities may impose rules restricting or prohibiting persons on ships from coming into contact with persons on land.


Power to restrict Access to and Isolation of Hospitals and Nursing Homes

The Act enables the health authorities to impose rules that prohibit or restrict visitors’ access to public and private nursing homes and hospitals.


Power to impose Rules to secure Supply of Goods

The Act enables the health authorities to, in cooperation with other ministers and the private sector, impose rules on special measures to secure the supply of goods.

 

This provision is the result of a number of incidents where private consumers have shopped in supermarkets at a degree much beyond their normal consumption, so-called hoarding.

 

Power to expropriate private Property

In order to carry through measures in pursuance of the new Act or rules resulting therefrom, the health authorities may initiate expropriation of private property.

 

This means that the health authorities may seize private property to be used for the common good, e.g. halls or empty lots where, if necessary, provisional treatment facilities, private hospitals or laboratories may be put up.

 

In the event that the health authorities carry through measures which, in pursuance of the new Act, constitute expropriation interventions, full compensation will be given to any and all person(s) affected.


 

Our Opinion

The increased spread of COVID-19 in Denmark is an extraordinary situation calling for extraordinary measures if a full-blown COVID-19 epidemic in Denmark is to be prevented as much as possible.

 

Notwithstanding the fact that the Act may be interfering for individuals in a number of areas, it is our opinion that the Act includes measures that are necessary in order for the authorities to intervene and ensure that the Danish systems are equipped to handle any further spread of COVID-19.

 

At Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen, we follow the constant development and continuously keep an eye on any statutory measures. 

 

 

If you have any question or would like additional information regarding the legal aspects of the new Act, please feel free to contact Partner  Pernille Nørkær (pno@mwblaw.dk), Senior Associate Henning Hedegaard Thomsen (hht@mwblaw.dk), Junior Associate Jonas Høst (jho@mwblaw.dk) or Junior Associate Marcus Alexander Svendsen (msv@mwblaw.dk).

 

The above does not constitute legal counselling and Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen does not warrant the accuracy of the information. With the above text, Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen has not assumes responsibility of any kind as a consequence of any reader’s use of the above as a basis for decision or considerations.