August 2021 Monthly News Summary
The Ombudsman has received many questions regarding changes in covering the costs of Covid-19 testing as of August 1. Considering the issues raised in the submissions, to which the current regulatory framework does not provide answers, the Ombudsman requested clarification from the Ministry of Health, especially in the field of health care and employment.
On August 20, President of Latvia Egils Levits presented the Order of the Three Stars to the Ombudsman Juris Jansons at a solemn ceremony at Riga Castle for merits in the work of the state, significant achievements in the protection of human rights, development and strengthening of the ombudsman institution.
The Ombudsman has sent a letter to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Science urging them to find a different solution for the face-to-face education process for children who are in a different situation and unable to take a saliva test due to their health or developmental condition.
On 16 August, the Ombudsman met Minister of the Interior Maria Golubeva and other representatives of the Ministry of the Interior to discuss issues related to the observance of human rights following the declaration of a state of emergency in the regions on the border with Belarus.
The Ombudsman has received a letter from the Ministry of Health regarding the right of children and families to attend public events together. The Ministry points out that no exceptions for children under the age of 12 of fully vaccinated or recovered parents to attend public events are currently supported. Families with children who have not yet reached the age of vaccination can take part in so-called semi-safe measures, which are acceptable subject to a range of epidemiological safety requirements (such as use of face masks, distance, visitor limit, etc.).
The Ombudsman has sent a letter to The Parliament of Latvia and the Cabinet of Ministers emphasizing that even in certain administrative territories during an emergency, the state must ensure that the restrictions are necessary and do not disproportionately restrict human rights and allow Latvia to continue fulfilling international obligations, which it has undertaken. But any use of force must be proportionate and as a last resort to prevent threats to national or public security.
The Ombudsman has sent a letter to the Cabinet of Ministers with an invitation to determine safety requirements for work with technologies in educational institutions, applying these requirements in accordance with the respective level of education. The Ombudsman points out that the state, without developing the regulatory framework, in this case has not ensured the maximum protection of the child’s health, as specified in the Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child and as it follows from the Constitution and the Education Law.
The Ombudsman has received a question, whether the employer is entitled to require employees to take Covid-19 tests at the employee’s expense before the start of each business day. The Ombudsman replies – the frequency with which these tests must be carried out at the place of work and who bears these costs depends on the sector in which the worker works.
The Ombudsman has sent a letter to The Parliament of Latvia and the Cabinet of Ministers, drawing attention to certain aspects of the regulation included in the draft law “Amendments to the Covid-19 Infection Spread Management Law”, which raises concerns about achieving a reasonable balance of interests between the individual and society.
In line with the epidemiological security measures set by health experts in educational institutions, schools should be open to face-to-face learning. The experience of several countries already shows that face-to-face learning can be successful without significantly affecting the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ombudsman, based on the several applications, initiated a verification procedure on the expulsion of children from pre-schools. As a result, several significant irregularities have been identified, which the Ombudsman calls on the responsible authorities to resolve urgently.