Marcelo steps into StayAway Covid app controversy

President Marcelo has this afternoon admitted that if MPs are uncomfortable forcing citizens to download and use the StayAway Covid contact tracing app, he will send the ‘draft law’ proposed by the government to the Constitutional Court for its decision.

The Council of Ministers’ plan to make the app ‘mandatory’ is causing a torrent of outrage throughout the country (click here).

Says Jornal de Notícias, Marcelo is leaving the proposed law to be debated in parliament. “If the issue of constitutionality of the obligation to use the app is raised – as various parties are already doing – he will take the initiative himself”.

Público cites the head of state affirming: “I prefer a thousand times asking the Constitutional Court to pronounce rapidly on the situation than to advance with a decision that would set off a controversy that could have all kinds of different responses at administrative and judicial level”.

Parliament is thus free to approve the measure or not, he said.

But as to the use of masks in busy streets, Marcelo says he sees no potential constitutional issues. Similar measures have been used in other countries without any citizens querying constitutionality, he said.

Nonetheless, it’s still unclear when exactly the draft PS law will be debated in parliament and what the text entails. This suggests the government’s ‘rules’ set out by the prime minister yesterday are not yet enshrined by law.

Meantime, Luís Marques Guedes, president of the parliamentary commission on constitutional affairs has lambasted the draft law, pointing out that it has a number of moot points. In saying people have to download and use the app, it fails to address a situation where people may do so, but leave their phone at home, he told Rádio Renascença.

“There is no legal obligation for people to use their mobile phone on a daily basis”, he said. “And to oblige people to go everywhere with a mobile phone, the State would have to supply each citizen with one, which is completely impractical”.

Another grey area is the fact that the law doesn’t ‘demand’ that people carry their phones in public places, which also reduces the ‘efficacy’ of the measure.

All in all, the plan “interferes with the reserve of private life”.

As to the idea that police forces could check that people have downloaded the app, this is beyond reasonable, he said.

“We don’t see how it is possible to have any kind of inspection without the manipulation of a citizen’s mobile phone by a third party, which is unthinkable”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com