Bill on right to dismiss employees without a Covid-19 certificate is intimidation of people, not education - vice president of Latvian Nurses' Association

  • 2021-08-05
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - The draft amendments to the Law on the Management of the Spread of Covid-19 Infection, authorizing employers to sack employees without valid Covid-19 certificates, which was supported in principle by parliament on Wednesday, is more intimidation of people, instead of educating the public that only the vaccine can protect them from Covid-19, Ilze Ortveina, Vice-President of the Latvian Nurses' Association, told Latvian Television this morning.

According to her, there is a clear lack of dialogue between the government, the Ministry of Health and the public to find joint solutions to combat Covid-19.

"We should sit at the same table, be aware of the risks we face and the homework that has not been completed, as well as the mistakes that have been made and deal with them together. Only by educating the public will we achieve the desired result," Ortveina said, adding that this bill might not be a benefit and could further divide society into supporters and deniers of vaccination.

Asked how she would describe the current healthcare situation in general, Ortveina said she was very anxious at the moment, as medical staff must be prepared for the rise in Covid-19 infection rates, which would certainly be exacerbated by the more contagious Delta variant.

"We need to understand if we have enough resources, enough people. Most importantly, for all of us to be aware that we need to be vaccinated against Covid-19, that is the only way to protect ourselves from serious consequences. We see every patient as potentially infectious. It is clear that we would very much do not want to get dressed in penguins again, constantly sweating and working in extreme conditions, because it reduces work capacity and undermines our ability to care for other patients," said Ortveina.

As reported, the Saeima on Wednesday endorsed draft amendments to the Law on the Management of the Spread of Covid-19 Infection authorizing employers to sack employees without valid Covid-19 certificates.

The bill was supported by 45 MPs, while 20 parliamentarians voted against it.

August 18 was set as the deadline for proposals that can be submitted ahead of the bill's second and final reading in the Saeima.

If the bill passes the final reading in parliament later this month, opposition lawmakers plan to collect the signatures of 34 MPs to suspend the promulgation of the bill and to start a procedure to initiate a referendum on the matter.

LETA also reported, as of October 1, employers in Latvia will be authorized to fire employees that will not have obtained Covid-19 certificates, according to legislative amendments adopted by the government in July.

Authors of the amendments to the Law on the Management of the Spread of Covid-19 Infection indicated that the regulation provides a new approach to curbing the spread of the virus and the protection of each individual's health by obliging state institutions to provide epidemiologically safe services and employers to ensure an epidemiologically safe work environment.

Under the amended law, employers will have to define the jobs and categories of employees for whom Covid-19 certificates will be compulsory and inform employees about these requirements.

The new regulation also makes Covid-19 certificates mandatory for employees of health care institutions, nursing homes and social rehabilitation institutions, as well as teachers.

Persons that will not have obtained a certificate confirming that they have been vaccinated against or have recovered from Covid-19 will be deemed unfit for the jobs involving provision of epidemiologically safe services.

The law, however, does not allow sacking persons that cannot obtain the Covid-19 certificate due to a valid reason. Employers are also not allowed to sack unvaccinated pregnant women and women up to one year after childbirth and during the whole period of breastfeeding (up to two years after childbirth).

At the same time, making vaccination mandatory for certain professions, the state assumes responsibility for the potential harm the vaccine might cause to a person's health. However, the law does not stipulate provisions for compensations people might claim from the state in case vaccination results in damage to their health or life.

The central and local governments will be obliged to ensure that all services that are provided in person are epidemiologically safe. Persons without a Covid-19 certificate will be able to receive services in person only if the services cannot be provided remotely.