State of emergency in the Republic of Moldova

On March 17, 2020 the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova adopted the Decision nr 55 that instituted State of Emergency on the entirety of the territory of the Republic of Moldova for a period of 60 days, until May 15, 2020. The State of emergency was adopted based on the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova and of the Law regarding the state of emergency, siege and war regime 212/2004, following the recommendation of the Government. It takes into account the official coronavirus pandemic declared by the World Health Organization on March 11 and the red alert code of epidemiological situation of infection with COVID-19, established by the National Extraordinary Commission of Public Health on 13 March.

On March 17, before declaring the State of emergency, the Parliament amended the Law regarding the state of emergency, siege and war regime 212/2004. The amendment allows the Parliament to adopt, modify or repeal organic laws and electoral legislation during the State of emergency.  The elections of the President of the Republic of Moldova are scheduled for the autumn 2020.

During the period of the state of emergency, the Commission for Exceptional Situations shall issue provisions with a view to implementing measures that entail restrictions to fundamental rights and liberties. Among others, these measures refer to establishing a special regime of entry and exit from the country, a special regime of movement on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, suspending the activity of educational establishments, introducing the quarantine regime, prohibiting meetings, public demonstrations and other mass gatherings.

On March 18, 2020 the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Moldova at CoE addressed CoE a notification triggering the derogation procedure, in accordance with Article 15 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms from the application of certain provisions of the Convention and its Protocols, in particular, Article 11 of the Convention, Article 2 of the First Protocol and Article 2 of the Protocol No. 4.

Since the measures have been applied, most people are self-isolated at home, schools provide online home schooling and public transportation runs under restricted timeframe. Freedom of expression and freedom of media are not restricted, internet access is provided.

As of 24.03.2020, based on the provision no. 2 of the Audiovisual Council, during the state of emergency ”the audiovisual media shall present the official position of the competent public authorities (World Health Organization, Exceptional Situation Commission of the Republic of Moldova, the Government of the Republic of Moldova, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection), these being the most competent authorities in this field. … The presenters / moderators / editors will unilaterally renounce the unannounced expression of their own opinion and the free formation of arbitrary opinions in reflecting the topics concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, the only reliable, truthful, impartial sources and balanced being the above mentioned competent public authorities”. The decision determined prompt reactions and criticisms from journalists and media CSOs who have described it as “abuse” and “censorship”. On March 26, 2020, the Audiovisual Council has repealed its decision from 24.03.2020 and  declared that the text of provision no. 02 will be submitted to debate at the next meeting of the Council.

Security and Information Service has ordered blocking of 54 web pages “promoting fake news about coronavirus evolution and protection and prevention measures”. Nevertheless, 52 of these pages have been taken from a list of web pages  that distributed fake news that were not related to COVID-19. Hosting and content providers are required to block online content following the decision of the Security and Information Service.

Still, a large part of the population did not observe the legal provisions, quarantines and self-isolation. In the first days, churches continued to host religious gatherings, observing minimal requirements for physical distance. People continued to gather in parks and public spaces.

Failure to comply with the legal measures is sanctioned with contravention fines of about 1,150 EUR for individuals and up to 1,850 EUR for legal persons. Breaking the measures to prevent or combat epidemic diseases can be sanctioned with a criminal fee up to 2,500 EUR or imprisonment of up to 3 years. By March 18, the police have sanctioned 5 individuals and 33 entrepreneurs who did not comply with the legal requirements and measures to prevent the virus, with a total amount of fines of 40,000 EUR.

So far, no excessive measures applied by the public authorities have been registered.

Starting on March 24, 2020, following the President’s decree, the Army is involved together with the law enforcement in applying the measures to prevent and spread the virus. Starting on March 25, people are forbidden to stay in public spaces and the elderly (63+) are forbidden to leave their homes without stringent necessity .