Monthly Archives - March 2020

Austria’s response to COVID-19


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Starting May 1st, the COVID-19 Relaxation Ordinance requires one meter distance between people in public places (More info). In addition, covering the face is imposed in closed public places such as shops or other business premises. Also, business operators must ensure 10 m² per customer in the premises. Any public event including cultural and sportive events that gathers more than 10 people is prohibited. Entry to Austria is still restricted and is only permitted at certain border crossings and is subject to certain conditions such as having a medical certificate (See here).

The Government has published support measures for companies, including a hardship fund of 1 billion euros for small businesses, EPUs, non-profit organizations, and freelancers (See here). Employees who cannot work remotely could, to a certain extent, be forced to use their vacation entitlements and time off credits.

A 'COVID 19 crisis management fund' was created on March 15th to provide the federal ministries with financial resources for taking the necessary measures against Covid-19 (More info). These measures may include those that are necessary to stimulate the economy. The Law also gives employers, in the event of the company’s closure, the option to offer employees a limited remuneration, as well as time off to take care of their children or other dependents. The Government has also provided exceptions in certain sectors to weekend and holiday rest (More info). 

 

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
- Official Journal (https://www.ris.bka.gv.at/Bgbl-Auth/)
- Recommendations and guidelines (https://www.sozialministerium.at/Informationen-zum-Coronavirus/Coronavirus---Fachinformationen.html)

 

 

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Luxembourg’s COVID-19 Exposure


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Luxembourg city, the capital of Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, view of the Old Town and Grund

On March 18, Luxembourg issued the prohibition of movement of all persons except under certain specific reasons, such as, going grocery shopping, going to work, and when seeking health care services. All cultural, social, festive, sportive and recreational activities are suspended. Company canteens are closed, unless a distance of two meters between every two people is respected. The Government has also prohibited all commercial activities, except for those listed in a Regulation (See here). The activities that are allowed to operate include businesses that mainly sell hygiene products, washing and sanitary equipment, financial and insurance institutions, maintenance activities required for safety reasons, and businesses which mainly sell food products.

The government has taken measures that provide for a mechanism that allows the governing bodies of any company or legal entity to hold their meetings, in particular meetings of shareholders and boards of directors, without requiring the physical presence of their members (See here). This mechanism will include the use of distance voting; or written circular resolutions; or videoconferencing; or any other means of telecommunication.

In addition, the time limits for the submission of reports for the attention of the Environment Agency are suspended until further notice (See here). In particular, this applies to the following: classified establishments; the installation of waste treatment facilities, etc.; the installation of polluting industrial establishments, etc.; establishments concerned by the SEVESO regulations.

For the duration of the Covid-19 crisis and due to the increased activity in core sectors with essential activities and activities that have been authorized by the government, businesses concerned can refuse all applications for leave or cancel each leave already approved (More info). In addition, these businesses may, subject to certain conditions, submit their application to the Ministry of Labor, Employment and the Social and Solidarity Economy for an increase in the working hours of their employees to a maximum of 12 hours per day or 60 hours per week (See here; and here).

Also during the state of crisis, the 26-week period of protection against dismissal in the event of incapacity for work is suspended. Thus, sick leave during the state of crisis is not taken into account in the 26-week protection period. For this reason, the protection period cannot expire during the state of crisis. The remaining proportion of the 26 weeks at the beginning of the state of crisis will resume the day after the end of the state of crisis (More info).

The Minister of Labor imposes new obligations for employers who intend to resume their activities (More info). Employers are now required to limit the number of employees that are, or likely to be, exposed to risks due to the pandemic; inform and train employees on potential risks and precautionary measures to take; display signs to indicate the risks and the preventive measures that are taken; properly set up workstations and other areas of the workplace; and provide employees with individual and collective protection equipment and products such as masks, sanitizers, and soap. Employers are also required to ensure that their employees follow social distancing rules by keeping 2 meters distance, and if this is not possible, to wear a mask or other equipment that covers the nose and the mouth.

A platform has been set up to match supply and demand for personal protective equipment that are produced and supplied in Luxembourg (More info). The purpose of this platform is to gather information on raw materials, finished and semi-finished products, and skills and services relating to protective masks, visors, plastic protective screens, aprons, and disinfectants. It includes an “offre” section which allows suppliers and manufacturers to submit and display their offers. There is also a “Demande” section which allows the community to indicate their specific needs in terms of PPE.

 

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information: - http://legilux.public.lu/ - https://guichet.public.lu/en/entreprises.html

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Ireland’s Reaction to COVID-19


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On March 24 2020, the Government updated public health guidelines on COVID-19 that provide for the closure of all non-essential businesses, and that state that individuals should stay at home except to go to work, care for others, and essential shopping (See: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/a7e66d-latest-guidance-on-public-health-measures/).

Currently, there are public health measures in place in Ireland to prevent the spread of COVID-19 until April 12 2020. These measures require everyone in Ireland to stay at home, except for certain exceptions that have been provided, which included going to and from work where the work is considered an essential service.

The Health and Safety Authority has published answers for employers and employees to frequently asked questions concerning working from home temporarily during the outbreak of COVID-19 (See: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_events_media/news/news_and_articles/faq%E2%80%99s_for_employers_and_employees_in_relation_to_home-working_on_a_temporary_basis_covid-19_.html). Based on this information, employers should consider making working from home a priority for employees, but if this is no possible, measures should be taken to prevent the risk of exposure of employees to COVID-19 in the workplace.

Additionally, the Health and Safety Authority has also published advice and guidance for employers concerning the health risk for employees during the outbreak of COVID-19 (See: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/news_events_media/news/news_and_articles/covid_19_%E2%80%93_advice_for_employers.html). Employers should consider conducting a risk assessment in the workplace to assess the risk of expsosure to COVID-19, and to implement the necessary control measures to mitigate the risks of spreading the virus.

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
-Government of Ireland (https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/)
-Health and Safety Authority (https://www.hsa.ie/eng/)
-Department of Health (https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/472f64-covid-19-coronavirus-guidance-and-advice/)
-Health Protection Surveillance Centre (https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidance/guidancefornon-clinicalsettings/)

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COVID-19 Affecting Japan


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The government established the COVID-19 Control Center and determined a basic policy for the control of the COVID-19 pandemic (https://www.mhlw.go.jp/content/10900000/000599698.pdf)  and a basic countermeasure policy for the control of COVID-19 infection (https://corona.go.jp/expert-meeting/pdf/kihon_h_0514.pdf). Among others, enterprises shall provide accurate and easy-to-understand information and calls to the public. As a countermeasure against COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare introduced subsidies to support teleworking and special leave systems in small and medium enterprises (See Here).

On April 6, 2020, the Guidance to the Businesses affected by COVID-19 was updated to include the information on the employment adjustment subsidy (See Here). On April 25, 2020, the enterprises that may apply for the employment adjustment subsidies are expanded under the Special Implementation Measures (See Here). The application procedure is simplified on May 6, 2020 (See Here).

The Ministry of Environment published a series of documents regarding the appropriate disposal of wastes contaminated with COVID-19 (See Here). Enterprises shall take infection prevention measures before disposing of the contaminated waste properly.

On April 7, 2020, the Head of the Novel Coronavirus Response Headquarters declared a state of emergency (See Here). The business operators in essential industries are required to continue their business during the period.

On May 25, 2020, the lifting of the state of emergency was declared (See Here). Based on the assessment of the situation of infection and the risk of further infection in respective regions, the request for refraining from leaving home as well as restrictions of holding events and using facilities will be gradually eased approximately every three weeks.

All nationals arriving from all regions are required to self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival to Japan and to refrain from using public transportation. In addition, Japan publishes a list of countries in which the foreign national will be subject to denial of landing if the person stayed within 14 days before the landing (More Info).

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
- Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (https://www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/seisakunitsuite/bunya/0000164708_00001.html)
- Ministry of Environment (http://www.env.go.jp/saigai/novel_coronavirus_2020.html)
- Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (https://www.meti.go.jp/covid-19/index.html)

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US Response to COVID-19


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For public and private employers, OSHA has developed Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 that is advisory in nature and should be used to help identify possible work-related exposure and health risks and to determine which control measures are most appropriate to implement in the workplace (See full PDF). Additionally, the CDC has published Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers (See all info). Employers should consult these guidance documents to help provide a safe and healthful workplace and to prevent worker exposure to COVID-19.

For employers who are required to comply with the Respiratory Protection Standard of 29 CFR 1910.134, OSHA has issued Temporary Enforcement Guidance directing OSHA field offices to exercise enforcement discretion regarding the required annual fit-testing (See full release).

The day following the CDC's publication of the Interim Guidance: Get Your Mass Gatherings or Large Community Events Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019 recommending that mass gatherings and events with 50 or more people should be cancelled or postponed (See full PDF), the President issued more stringent guidelines, The President's Coronavirus Guidelines for America, in which it is advised to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people (See full PDF). Employers should consider adjusting or delaying large work events and conferences.

During this time, non-essential business travel within the United States should be limited or rescheduled and international travel must be in accordance with the travel restrictions issued by the President. Entry is barred for all foreign nationals (except permanent residents) travelling from, or who had visited, during the previous 14 days: Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Ireland Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
-CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html)
-NIOSH (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/2019_ncov.html)
-State Department (https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-19-information.html)
-OSHA (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/).

 

California

Cal/OSHA has published Interim Guidelines for General Industry on 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/General-Industry.pdf). Employers should review the recomendations and standards detailed in the guidelines, as well as the health and safety procedures already in place, to ensure that employees are protected from COVID-19. These guidelines are for general industry employers - health care employers and employees should consult the Interim Guidance for Protecting Health Care Workers from Exposure to 2019 Novel Coronavirus. A list of guidance documents applicable to various industries, facilities, and operations can be found here: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Guidance.aspx. The California's Labor & Workforce Development Agency is maintaining a central repository of employment-related information so that employers and employees understand what resources are available at this time.

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
-Cal/OSHA (https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/Health-Care-General-Industry.html)
-LWDA (https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/)
-CDPH (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/OPA/Pages/New-Release-2020.aspx).

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United Kingdom – COVID-19


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On March 23, the UK Prime Minister announced the Government's decision to ban gatherings of more than two people and implement strict limits on exercise. All non-essential shops will be closed, and people will only be allowed outside to buy food or medication, exercise alone once a day, or to travel to work if absolutely necessary (More info). The Government recommends the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces such as shops, trains, and buses to help reduce the spread of coronavirus (More info).

The UK government has published three sets of guidance aimed at businesses and employers to help them limit the spread of the coronavirus at the workplace.

Businesses are encouraged to inform the employees about the measures that are taken to reduce the risk. It is also recommended that businesses encourage employees to work from home, wherever possible. Employers should also ensure that employees who are in a vulnerable group are strongly advised to follow social distancing guidance (More info). They should provide hand sanitizer and tissues for staff, as well as places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage everyone to do so regularly. Posters, leaflets, and other informative materials should be available at the workplace to inform and remind everyone of the public health advice. Additionally, the Government has declared that employees who follow advice to stay at home and cannot work as a result will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) (See here).

The Government has also prepared a support package for businesses in their effort to limit the spread of Covid-19. It is declared that the government will introduce legislation to allow small-sized and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. Also, a business rate retail holiday will be in place for retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. Other financial and tax support will also be available for businesses in this package (See here).

In addition, guidance for employees has also been published to inform them of the good practices to follow with regards to remote working and sick pay (See here).

Instructions for cleaning workplaces and offices have been determined (More info). The minimum PPE to be worn for cleaning an area where a person with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) is disposable gloves and an apron. Also, disposable cloths or paper roll and disposable mop heads, should be used to clean all hard surfaces, floors, chairs, door handles, and sanitary fittings.

A set of Guidance has also been specifically published for UK businesses that trade internationally (See here). The purpose of this Guidance is to provide assistance in terms of supply chains, intellectual property, and financial support for UK businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus.

Additionally, a set of guidance was published on March 16 for shipping and seaports in order to assist ships (including cargo vessels, ferries, and cruise ships) and seaports in providing advice to staff on addressing coronavirus (COVID-19), on ships and in seaports (See here).

The Government has set up a new ‘support finder’ tool which will help businesses and self-employed people in the UK to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic (See here). It has also decided that workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 are now able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years (More info).

 

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:

- Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

- ACAS: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

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United Arab Emirates and Their COVID-19 News


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Private employers and enterprises are advised to take precautionary measures to protect employees' health from the new coronavirus by cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and by providing disinfectants at the workplace, employees' accommodations and vehicles used to transport workers. Employers are also advised to provide disposable masks and instruct workers on the measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Additionally, employers are required to provide electronic medical devices to measure the temperature of workers at the entrances of labor accommodation and report cases of coronavirus symptoms immediately (See Measures).


Land transport companies are urged to ensure compliance with the instructions and guidelines issued by UAE official authorities, educate their workers about such instructions and guidelines, and apply the necessary and required precautions in all aspects of their operations. No ships can enter any dry dock or repair and maintenance workshops before at least 14 days elapse after leaving its last International port, and there must be no contact with any person outside the ship from outside UAE in the last 14 days. This should be interpreted as the required quarantine period for the crew of any ship wishing to enter. Companies should keep up to date regarding Corona Virus information, develop and apply appropriate internal plans to prevent an outbreak of the COVID-19 among workers, educate their workers about infection prevention rules and procedures, ensure availability of all the necessary preventive equipment and disinfection supplies to all staff, particularly to frontline staff, and monitor stocks thereof to make sure they’re kept available. Each company should draw and implement an appropriate plan for regularly disinfecting means of transport and facilities, reduce the number of frontline staff and apply remote working whenever possible using enabling modern technologies; and implement appropriate procedures to ensure the requisite preventive distancing is applied in public transport means and stations and at customer service centers to avoid the spread of infection (See Guidelines).

UAE residents who work in the private sector and wish to return to their home countries to do so during the period of precautionary measures undertaken in the UAE to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19. Employees will be asked to submit their annual leave dates or agree with their employers on unpaid leave (See Initiative).

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
- UAE Ministry of Health & Prevention
- UAE National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority

 

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Turkey’s Response to COVID-19


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A vendor sells the Turkish national flag at the near-empty Eminonu Square as the nation tries to contain the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in Istanbul on March 17, 2020. - Turkey suspended collective mosque prayers until further notice to limit the spread of the new coronavirus while ordering the closure of public spaces including cinemas. The interior ministry said theatres, cinemas, concert halls, restaurants where there is live music, shisha cafes and places serving tea and coffee, night clubs, bars would be closed "temporarily" from midnight on March 16, 2020. (Photo by Ozan KOSE / AFP)

As of March 27, the Government of Turkey has suspended all international passenger flights to and from Turkey and requested airline companies to obtain a flight permit for any planned flight (See Announcement).

Employers must comply with all the measures issued by the Ministry of Health including; not allowing employees to work in the same office with a diagnosed or suspected COVID-19 employee (See Guidelines); cleaning and disinfecting all common closed and open areas regularly (See Guidelines); preventing gatherings of people, including training sessions (except executive activities requiring enforcement) (See Guidelines).

Additionally, employers must comply with all guidelines issued by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security and General Directorate of OSH requiring employers to apply effective measures to present and contain the spread of COVID-19, particularly conducting a risk assessment taking into consideration the risk of COVID-19 and updating the workplace emergency plans to include an action plan to be implemented in case of COVID-19 is detected at the workplace (See Guidelines).

Employers at workplaces where manual handling activities are regularly performed must follow the guidance provided by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (See Guidelines). Construction companies must follow similar guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (See Guidelines), this is true for construction sites as well (See Guidelines). Employers at gas stations must instruct employees to wear masks, maintain distance from each other and from customers, avoid touching their faces, and wash hands frequently (See Guidelines).

Until 17 July 2020, all employers are prohibited from terminating the work and services contracts they are a party to, including employment contracts with employees, except in narrow circumstances where the employee or the service provider demonstrates non-compliance with specified work-relation ethics and good faith rules (See Law). 

 

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
- Ministry of Health COVID-19 Page
- Turkish Airlines Press Releases   

- Ministry of Labor and Social Security 

 

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Taiwan’s Exposure to COVID-19


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On January 15, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that COVID-19 was added as an infectious disease under the fifth category and is subject to the requirements under the Communicable Disease Control Act and related regulations. Taiwan Centers for Disease Control published many regulations on the prevention of COVID-19 (See Here), including the Special Ordinance on Prevention and Relief of COVID-19. Enterprises may be able to apply for subsidies from the government if it is severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

On April 21, 2020, the updated Special Ordinance specifies that the subsidies will be exempted from income tax. The Regulations for the relief and revitalization measures are also formulated by the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Ministry and Economic Affairs for Businesses, and Ministry of Interior, etc..

On May 15, 2020, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications also published Directions on the Loan for Shipping Industry Impacted by COVID-19 (See Here) and (See Here).

The Ministry of Health and Welfare also issued the Guidelines for large-scale public gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and the Guidelines for Prevention of SARS-CoV-2 Infection

On April 13, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Welfare published the Precautions for Quarantine at Home.  The person quarantined at home shall keep a record on the temperature and health condition. If there are any suspected symptoms, the quarantined person shall notify the local health department and cannot take public transportation to the hospital.

On June 1, 2020, they updated the list of restrictions for all kinds of people coming to Taiwan. All people coming to Taiwan are required to self-quarantine for 14 days at home (See Here). Starting from June 22, 2020, Taiwan will shorten the quarantine time for certain travelers who are from countries/regions with low or medium infection risk and have no travel history of other countries/regions within 14 days before boarding. The loose requirements only apply to business travelers who will stay in Taiwan for less than three months. (More Info

In consideration of the low risk of domestic COVID-19 epidemic, the Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to loosen the prevention measures after June 7, 2020 (More Info).

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:

- COVID-19 Epidemic Prevention Critical Decision Website (Website)

- Ministry of Health and Welfare (Website)
- Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Website)

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Switzerland-COVID-19


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On March 16, 2020 the Federal Council classified the situation in Switzerland as an 'extraordinary situation' according to the Epidemic Act and many restrictions were applied.

Starting May 11th, certain restrictions have been lifted and shops, markets, museums, libraries, sport facilities and restaurants can reopen as long as precautionary measures are adopted and applied. Employees and employers are now required to comply with the rules on hygiene and social distancing. Easing the restrictions is done in multiple phases: phase 1 which started on April 27 concerns healthcare institutions, self-service facilities, personal services and craft and garden centers. Businesses that are allowed to open are, however, required to establish and implement a protection plan (More info). Phase 2 started on May 11th, and concerns primary and lower secondary schools, shops, markets, museums, libraries, certain sport facilities and restaurants. Phase 3 is expected to start on June 8th and will allow gatherings of more than 5 people in particular. The restrictions on travels to and from Germany, France and Austria are expected to be lifted from June 15. However, public and private events of more than 1000 people are expected to remain prohibited until August 31st (For more information see here).

On March 20th, the Federal Council decided to ban gatherings of more than five people. Also, in order to avoid the closure of construction sites and to better protect personnel in general, the Federal Council urges construction companies to respect the recommendations of the Confederation in matters of hygiene and social isolation by adapting their organization. Employers must limit the number of people present on construction sites or in companies, but also prevent gatherings of more than five people in break rooms and canteens. (More info)

The Federal Council has required employers to adapt their employees' work schedules to allow them to avoid peak hours in public transportation. They should also allow telework as much as possible (See here). People at particular risk must work from home. If this is not possible, they must be put on leave by their employer; the payment of their wages is maintained (See here). An Infoline for companies has also been established as part of a comprehensive package of measures aimed at helping businesses to effectively manage the crisis (See here).

A series of recommendations for businesses has also been published by the Federal Council (More info). The necessary arrangements must be made at the workplace so that personal hygiene measures, such as regular hand washing, are feasible for everyone. If conditions within the company allow, staff members should keep their distance, e.g. by making interior arrangements, using telework, dividing offices (one part of the staff works in the office and the other, in a different place, e.g. telework), etc. Healthy people should not wear hygiene masks (surgical masks). They do not effectively protect against infection by respiratory viruses. This recommendation does not apply to jobs where employees have to wear a mask for other reasons. Employees must be informed of personal protection measures to be applied in the workplace. Those measures must always be adapted to the latest OFSP recommendations. Business continuity management must be activated immediately in professional circles.

Additionally, it has been decided that holders of a training certificate that expired on March 9, 2020 or later may continue to transport dangerous goods in Switzerland and - as soon as this is permitted again - complete the renewal training program and take the renewal training exam. The new ADR training certificate is valid from the expiry date of the previous certificate (More info).

The Government now requires an authorization for exporting certain types of protective equipment such as certain categories of protective glasses and visors, face shields, oral protection equipment, protective clothing, and gloves (See here).

The Federal Council intends to take measures to protect Swiss companies from bankruptcy due to the coronavirus crisis. At its meeting on April 8, 2020, it instructed the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) to submit proposals to it next week. The Federal Council has also decided not to extend the stay of the prosecution or the judicial holidays.

These measures against the spread of Coronavirus will be extended by a week until Sunday, April 26, but should then gradually begin to be eased before the end of the month. That is the decision taken by the Federal Council at its meeting on April 8. The Federal Council will decide on steps to ease the measures at its next meeting on April 16.

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
- Government: https://www.admin.ch/gov/de/start.html

- The swiss authorities online: https://www.ch.ch/de/coronavirus/

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