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Government withdraws plan for restrictions on movement after Constitutional Committee rejection

The government will have to go back to the drawing board with its plans for a partial lockdown in high-risk areas.

Perustuslakivaliokunnan puheenjohtaja Antti Rinne.
The Constitutional Law Committee is chaired by former PM Antti Rinne (SDP). Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva
Yle News

The Parliamentary Constitutional Law Committee has delivered a major setback to the government's plans for a partial lockdown of areas with high coronavirus infection levels.

On Wednesday, the committee, which must approve all bills, ruled that the restrictions on movement proposed by the government are unconstitutional.

Following the ruling, Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) said that the government would withdraw the bill. In a tweet, she said that a special cabinet meeting would be held on Wednesday evening to formally rescind the legislation.

Marin also said on Twitter that the pandemic situation remained serious and that close contacts should be avoided. She advised "spending Easter only with the people closest to you and avoiding unnecessary travel", adding that "we still have to work together to make summer brighter for all of us".

Rinne: "Completely disproportional"

According to the committee, restrictions on movement must be targeted precisely at the presumed sources of infection, i.e. private events and parties, moving around in groups and shopping.

The committee pointed out that the prohibitions in the government's bill are subject to interpretation. Therefore, in practice, it would be impossible to predict what is forbidden or permissible.

"The basic solution of the government's proposal to ban movement in principle is completely disproportional and cannot be considered necessary within the meaning of the Constitution," said committee chair Antti Rinne (SDP), who was Marin's predecessor as prime minister and party leader.

"The problem is highlighted by the possibility of interpretation in prohibitions, regulations and their exceptions. It is virtually impossible for people to predict what is forbidden and permissible – and thus what is punishable," he said.

“Prohibitions and restrictions must be directed precisely at the sources of infection: private gatherings and events, staying and moving around in groups and visiting shops and services – restrictions specifically related to these, rather than prohibitions,” said Rinne.

Purra: Bill must be entirely restructured

The Administration Committee also considered the bill on Wednesday and is to give its verdict on the legislation on Thursday.

The committee's chair, Riikka Purra of the opposition Finns Party, said she believes that the changes demanded by the Constitutional Committee are so extensive that a supplementary proposal will not be enough to correct them, but that instead the government will have to completely restructure the proposal.

"As the Constitutional Law Committee said, the whole basic approach to restrictions on movement is problematic," Purra told Yle.

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