Health bill raises civil liberties fears

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The bill, which could replace a law dating from 1934, has raised concerns that government officials may be granted the right to forcibly enter islanders’ homes.

The proposed law, which is currently under public consultation, is described in the accompanying literature as resulting from “significant gaps” identified in the island’s legislative powers during the recent pandemic.

In the event of a future pandemic or other public health emergency presenting a risk of harm to human health, government officials may be empowered to take action during events “where voluntary cooperation is not possible. not at the rendezvous ”.

Senator Steve Pallett said he had received “hundreds” of emails on the subject and believed other politicians had been contacted in similar volumes as well.

He said: “I think there is a growing resentment around the restrictions that have been imposed and a desire to get back to normalcy.

“There were a lot of restrictions during the pandemic, some of which put civil liberties at risk, and I can understand the frustration people are feeling.”

Senator Pallett said he had sent generic responses to more than 100 emails and at least as many were waiting for a response, but urged Islanders to participate in the consultation on the bill.

“This is at a very early stage and after the consultation there would be one drafting of the law and then another consultation before the proposals go to member states for consideration, but people would have to respond to the consultation now. otherwise there is a risk that the government will feel the people are not concerned, ”he said.

Speaking at the Assembly of States last week, Saint John Agent Andy Jehan asked Health Minister Richard Renouf if he suggested that officials could enter a property against the will of the occupier and forcibly administering a vaccine.

MP Renouf said that was “certainly not” the case, but the intention was to strike a balance and replace “extremely outdated” public health legislation.

The health minister said it was sometimes necessary to go beyond government recommendations and use legal enforcement powers, citing wearing a mask as an example.

There was a controversy in 2013 when new safety laws proposed by the Department of Health were criticized before being finally dropped.

Anne Pryke, then Minister of Health, said the ability to inspect properties would only be used in extreme circumstances, but the proposals have been described as “very, very drastic” by MP John Young who at the At the time, was the head of a review committee. He is now the Island’s Minister of the Environment.

Islanders wishing to have their say on the potential public health law should visit gov.je/government/consultations by July 30.

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