Monthly Archives - April 2020

Hungary’s Response on Covid-19


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On March 11th, the Hungarian Government declared a state of emergency in the country. An initial curfew was declared on March 27th for two weeks, but on April 9th, The Prime Minister extended the curfew indefinitely (More info). The curfew allows people to leave their homes only for essential activities such as work, professional obligations, economic, agricultural and forestry activities, access to health care, and shopping and running errands regarding basic needs.” Grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies, and markets will be open. People will be required to keep one and a half meters apart. The curfew was, however, lifted in Budapest starting May 18th. People are still required to take precautionary measures such as covering their face in shops and on public transport or keeping a distance of one and a half meters (More info).

The National Center for Public Health has published certain recommendations for workplaces to ensure safe return to work of employees. Only healthy people should return to the office, special attention should be paid to disinfectant hand washing, surface disinfection and distance. Employers should also ensure more frequent cleaning of the premises. The workplace needs to be disinfected and cleaned more often, and computers, keyboards, and switches need to be disinfected more often. Whenever possible, the possibility should be created for employees to keep a distance of 1.5-2 meters from each other. In addition, frequent ventilation of the workplace is an important measure to prevent the spread of the virus (See here).

 

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
- https://magyarkozlony.hu/
- https://koronavirus.gov.hu/

 

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South Africa’s COVID-19 Exposure


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On 23 March 2020, the President of South Africa announced a nationwide lock-down. According to the order, individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strict circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food and other essential supplies, or collect a social grant. Additionally, all businesses must be closed, except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the JSE, supermarkets, petrol stations, health care providers and companies that are essential to the production and transportation of food, basic goods, and medical supplies (See here).

The head of an institution must determine essential services to be performed and must determine the essential staff who will perform those services (See Here). If a person rendering essential services is unable to travel to and from his/her place of employment, the employer must make the necessary transport arrangements: Provided that no more than 50% of the licensed capacity of the vehicle or vessel is exceeded and all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and the limitation of exposure to persons with COVID-19 are adhered to (See Here).

Employers and businesses should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
- National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) COVID-19 page (See Here)
- Department of Home Affairs (See Here)

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The European Union and COVID-19


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The European Chemicals Agency and the European Commission are supporting Member States and companies to apply derogations from the normal authorisation requirement for biocidal products. This may alleviate the difficulties companies and Member State authorities may be facing during the global coronavirus pandemic, and this would also allow healthcare professionals and European citizens to have access to more disinfectants. Companies looking to quickly access the market with their disinfectants that contain an already approved active substance, are able to apply for permission to the relevant national authority by relying on Article 55(1) of the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR). This provision allows national authorities to provide time-limited derogations from the standard product authorisation requirements in situations where there is a threat to public health (See Here).

Additionally, the European Commission has published a guidance document on Shipments of Waste in the EU in the context of the COVID-19 crisis (See Here). The Commission recognises that companies dealing with waste are providing an essential service to society to protect health and the environment and to keep the circular economy moving. The Commission, therefore, has provided guidance to Member State Competent Authorities, economic operators and stakeholders in order to prevent and reduce obstacles to shipments. The guidance document clarifies that waste shipments have access to the newly established "green lanes" for goods transport. It also recommended using electronic rather than paper procedures whereever if this is possible for complying with the documentation and notification requirements of the EU Waste Shipment Regulation. Furthermore, it is enouraged to use electronic reports and they should be accepted by competent authorities in all member states, according to the Commission.

Furthermore, the European Center for Disease Prevention has published a guidance on Social Distancing measures that all individuals are encouraged to implement in their daily lives. Some of those recommendations may apply to businesses in respect of, for example, restriction of mass gatherings, and staying at home measures.

-ECHA COVID-19 updates (https://echa.europa.eu/covid-19)
-European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china)
-European Commission Coronavirus response (https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/health/coronavirus-response_en)

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China’s Exposure to COVID -19 What’s next?


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China As a Country:

On February 25, 2020, the National Health Commission published the Notice on Scientifically and Accurately Conducting a Good Job in the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 Epidemic. (http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2020-02/25/content_5483024.htm) The Notice provides a series of technical specifications on the prevention and control of COVID-19 epidemic, including the Technical Specification on the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 Epidemic in Offices and Public Places under Annex 5 and the Technical Specification on the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 Epidemic in Industrial and Construction Companies under Annex 6. Companies shall follow the instructions under the Technical Specifications to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as conducting a temperature check-up for each employee every day and ensuring the ventilation in the workplaces. If there is any suspected patient in the workplace, the company shall take corresponding prevention and control measures and report to the local disease control department immediately. These requirements are reemphasized under the technical guidelines on furthering the prevention and control of COVID-19 for key places, key units, and key populations published on April 9, 2020 (http://www.nhc.gov.cn/xcs/zhengcwj/202004/b90add4a70d042308b8c3d4276ec76a7.shtml). In response to the recent development of the COVID-19 outbreak, the techical guidelines are adjusted and renamed as the Guidance on the normalized COVID-19 prevention and control for key populations in key units or key places at low-risk areas during summertime (See Here) on June 18, 2020.

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in offices through the air conditioner and ventilation systems, companies shall comply with the cleaning and disinfection requirements under the Guidelines for the Operation and Management of Air-conditioning and Ventilation Systems in Offices and Public Places during COVID-19 Epidemic (http://www.gov.cn/xinwen/2020-02/13/content_5478015.htm)

In most parts of China, companies have resumed the business operation from the end of February. To better support the resumption of work and production, the National Development and Reform Commission issued a series of policies, including reducing electricity costs of enterprises (https://www.ndrc.gov.cn/xwdt/xwfb/202002/t20200222_1220994.html) and multiple supporting measures for foreign invested companies (https://www.ndrc.gov.cn/xxgk/zcfb/tz/202003/t20200311_1222902.html).

On March 17, 2020, the State Council published the Guideline for the Public to Wear Masks Correctly (http://www.nhc.gov.cn/xcs/zhengcwj/202003/0a472cc09e744144883db6a74fe6e760.shtml). Employers should ensure the employees in offices, meeting rooms, factories etc. wear masks correctly in accordance with the Guideline.

On March 20, 2020, the State Council published an Implementation Opinion to Promote the Employment Responding to the Impacts of COVID-19 Epidemic (http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2020-03/20/content_5493574.htm), including promoting vocational training.

On March 26, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Immigration Administration announced that the entry into China by foreign nationals holding valid visas or residence permits will be temporarily suspended starting March 28, 2020. (https://www.fmprc.gov.cn/web/wjbxw_673019/t1761858.shtml) Companies may reconsider the travel plan for employees. If necessary, the foreign employee may apply for a visa at Chinese embassies or consulates because of necessary economic and trade activities. Visas issued after the publication of the announcement will not be affected.

On March 27, 2020, the Maritime Safety Administration updated the Guidance to provide recommendations for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in ships and to provide personal protection for crews (http://xxgk.mot.gov.cn/jigou/haishi/202003/P020200329422788999003.pdf). In addition, in order to further promote the resumption of work and production at ports and on ships after the COVID-19 epidemic, from March 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020, the port construction fee shall be exempted and the ship oil pollution compensation fund shall be reduced by half (http://xxgk.mot.gov.cn/jigou/cwsjs/202003/t20200313_3345793.html).

Recently, the State Council published the Notice on strengthening the detection of COVID-19 in 12 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan and others (http://www.nhc.gov.cn/xcs/zhengcwj/202004/9c1b7e72557447f68927423d3012f168.shtml) to avoid imported cases and the COVID-19 Management Rules for Asymptomatic Patients (http://www.nhc.gov.cn/xcs/zhengcwj/202004/9d3edaaebb9a4c369f42c61039be35fe.shtml) to prevent people from being infected by asymptomatic patients.

On April 27, 2020, the State Council issued a Notice on the special inspection work on the implementation of the prevention and control measures for the resumption of production. (http://www.nhc.gov.cn/xcs/zhengcwj/202004/119a73b832354f1babfc70efae335e4f.shtml) Enterprises in specific industries or with more than 20 workers will be subject to the inspection from local governments.

On May 8, 2020, the Guiding Opinion on the Normalization of COVID-19 Prevention and Control was published to emphasize the precautionary measures and the prevention and control of COVID-19 for key places, key units, and key populations. (http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2020-05/08/content_5509896.htm)

On June 18, 2020, in response to the recent COVID-19 cases found in Beijing, the enterprises and institutions are required to carry out comprehensive environmental sanitation and disinfection at workplaces in accordance with the Notice On Carrying Out Comprehensive Environmental Sanitation And Disinfection Work (See Here). Appropriate disinfectants shall be selected and used in accordance with the Guidance on Commonly Used Disinfectants attached to the Notice.

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

- National Health Commission (http://www.nhc.gov.cn/xcs/xxgzbd/gzbd_index.shtml)

- the State Council (http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/zuixin.htm)

- COVID info (http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/nw2/nw2314/nw32419/nw48516/nw48545/u26aw64640.html)

- Relevant laws and regulations (https://book.yunzhan365.com/sarx/ywen/mobile/index.html)

 

 

Shanghai

On February 11, 2020, Shanghai People's Government published the Notice on Further Strict Implementation of Various Epidemic Prevention and Control Measures (http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/nw2/nw2314/nw32419/nw48516/nw48545/u26aw63661.html). Under the Notice, 14-day quarantine is strictly implemented for those returning to Shanghai from COVID-19 epidemic key areas. The enterprise shall take the primary responsibility for the prevention and control of COVID-19 outbreak in the resumption of production and work. For the labor-intensive enterprises with employees or workers returning back to Shanghai, more stringent management measures shall be taken. If the enterprise can provide places for the quarantine, the employees shall be quarantined in the provided places. If the enterprise is unable to provide places for the quarantine and the employees have no residence place in Shanghai, they shall be quarantined in a centralized point provided by the district. The enterprise or the individual shall bear certain expenses. In addition, enterprises with collective dormitories shall earnestly perform their main responsibility for the strict prevention and control of COVID-19 outbreak.

To reduce the burden on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) caused by the COVID-19 epidemic and to promote the resumption of work, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Economy and Informatization published a Notice regarding the Measures on Responding to the Impact of the Epidemic and Further Promote the Stable and Healthy Development of SMEs. (http://shanghai.gov.cn/nw2/nw2314/nw2319/nw12344/u26aw64424.html) In addition, Shanghai Human Resources and Social Security Bureau and Shanghai Municipal Financial Bureau specify that if the large enterprises with independent training capabilities or the SMEs without training capabilities conducted online or vocational training for employees during shutdown period (including overall and partial shutdowns) caused by the COVID-19 epidemic, online or vocational employee training qualify for a subsidy from the government. (http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/nw2/nw2314/nw32419/nw48614/nw48615/u21aw1424020.html)

In the Government Press Conference held on March 22, 2020, the spokesman emphasizes that Shanghai Customs implements comprehensive centralized control and closed management of all personnel entering from airports, ports, and seaports. The personnel from 24 key countries are subject to 100% landing quarantine, 100% temperature monitoring, and 100% health declaration. (http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/nw2/nw2314/nw32419/nw48516/nw48546/u21aw1434222.html)

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

- Shanghai People's Government (http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/nw2/nw2314/nw32419/nw48516/index.html)

 

 

Wuhan

On January 29, 2020, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued the Interim Measures for Prevention and Control of COVID-19 in Wuhan (http://wjw.wuhan.gov.cn/front/web/showDetail/2020020209339). The enterprise shall not conceal, postpone, or misrepresent the COVID-19 epidemic situation, or instruct others to conceal, postpone, or misreport the facts. In the Decision to Win the Defense Battle of Wuhan against COVID-19 Epidemic (http://wjw.wuhan.gov.cn/front/web/showDetail/2020021909676), enterprises must take the responsibility for the prevention and control work of COVID-19, report any suspected cases in a timely manner, and take corresponding measures.

On February 22, 2020, Wuhan Municipal People's Government published a Notice regarding the Measures on Responding to the Impact of the Epidemic and Supporting the Operation and Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). (http://www.wuhan.gov.cn/hbgovinfo/zwgk_8265/szfxxgkml/fggw/bgtwj/202002/t20200222_305392.html) Among others, for the SMEs that rent state-owned assets for business use, rent is waived for three months and halved from the fourth to sixth months. From January 1, 2020, to June 30, 2020, the prices of industrial water and natural gas were reduced by 10%. The supply of electricity, water, and gas to SMEs for production and operation won't be stopped even if the SMEs owe the fees. The vocational training for employees during the shutdown period and recovery period qualifies for a subsidy from the government.

The employers shall ensure that all employees wear masks in the workplace in accordance with the Notice to Implement Measures on Wearing Masks in Public Places (http://www.wuhan.gov.cn/hbgovinfo/zwgk_8265/szfxxgkml/fggw/gfxwj/202001/t20200123_304117.html)

In the Conference to Promote the Resumption of Work and Production held on March 22, 2020, the mayor emphasizes that several prevention and control mechanisms shall be put in place. The employer shall ensure the personal protection of employees and the disinfection of the working environment. The employer shall also investigate and eliminate the hidden hazards in the workplace. (http://www.wuhan.gov.cn/2019_web/whyw/202003/t20200323_307281.html)

On March 25, 2020, Wuhan Municipal People's Government published a Notice on Several Measures to Promote Stable Development and Resumption of Work and Production in Wuhan. (http://www.wh.gov.cn/hbgovinfo/zwgk_8265/tzgg/202003/t20200326_307580.html) The Notice specifies 21 supportive measures for enterprises, including a zero-interest loan to small and medium-sized enterprises for a year, value-added tax exemption, and reduction on water and gas prices.

Starting from April 8, 2020, all traffic control checkpoints of Wuhan will be removed. The operation of railways, civil aviation, water transportation, highways, and buses will be restored in an orderly manner (http://www.hubei.gov.cn/zhuanti/2020/gzxxgzbd/zxtb/202004/t20200407_2207131.shtml).

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

- Wuhan Municipal People's Government (http://www.wuhan.gov.cn/)

- Wuhan Municipal Health Commission (http://wjw.wuhan.gov.cn/front/web/ztzl/801)

- Relevant laws and regulations (https://book.yunzhan365.com/sarx/ywen/mobile/index.html)

 

 

Beijing

On March 16, 2020, Beijing People's Government issued a Notice on Several Measures to Conduct a Good Job in Epidemic Prevention and Control and to Guarantee the Orderly Resumption of Work and Production. (http://www.beijing.gov.cn/zhengce/zhengcefagui/202003/t20200315_1706857.html). Employers should allow employees to work from home. A list of telecommunication products is provided without charges. In the meantime, Beijing Market Supervision Administration also published a Notice to support the resumption of work and production. (http://www.beijing.gov.cn/zhengce/zhengcefagui/202003/t20200323_1726886.html) Among others, the validation date of production and operation license, as well as the validation date of measurement, certification and special equipment certificate which expires during the COVID-19 epidemic period will be extended to/from one month to six months after the outbreak is solved. Enterprises and social organizations are encouraged to formulate guidance or standards relating to epidemic prevention and control or resumption of work and production. To support the small, medium and micro enterprises in response to the epidemic, among others, the rent for March and April for specified enterprises shall be reduced or suspended. (http://www.beijing.gov.cn/zhengce/gfxwj/202004/t20200417_1814532.html)

On April 18, 2020, the Notice on the normalization of COVID-19 prevention and control in the resumption of work and production (http://www.beijing.gov.cn/zhengce/gfxwj/202004/t20200418_1846059.html) was published. If the enterprise ensure the employees to have a working distance of not less than 1 meter per person and an area of ​​not less than 2.5 square meters, it can arrange the employees to return to work normally.

Because of the new cases found in Beijing in June, the Beijing government has strengthened the measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Under the Notice on the prevention and control of the recent resumption of production (http://www.beijing.gov.cn/zhengce/zhengcefagui/202006/t20200614_1924639.html) published on June 14, 2020, each production and operation unit shall carry out a comprehensive investigation on the health situation of all personnel of the unit and their co-living personnel. No person shall be allowed to come back to work within 14 days. The unit shall strengthen the epidemic prevention and control measures, such as checking the body temperature of employees, ensuring that the employees wear masks, maintain a safe distance, use air conditioning scientifically, etc.

Several notices were published to ensure the safety of construction workers (See Here) (More Info). People entering or exiting the construction site, living area, and office area shall be recorded and are subject to temperature checks. The employers shall regularly ventilate and disinfect indoor places such as offices, dorms, canteens, bathrooms, etc.

The Ministry of Transport issued the Notice to strengthen the COVID-19 control measures, all people leaving Beijing must possess proof of negative testing result for COVID-19 nucleic acid test that is taken within the past 7 days (See Here) (More Info).

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

- Beijing People's Government (http://www.beijing.gov.cn/ywdt/zwzt/yqfk/)

- Relevant laws and regulations (http://www.beijing.gov.cn/so/zcdh/fcfg)

 

 

 

Hubei

The work and production in Hubei Province have resumed gradually from March 11, 2020. The Hubei People's Government published a Notice on Several Policies and Measures to Promote Economic and Social Development in Hubei Provinces. (http://www.hubei.gov.cn/zfwj/ezf/202003/t20200312_2180269.shtml) The Notice provides multiple financial supports to small and medium enterprises.

On March 27, 2020, the Hubei People's Government published Several Measures to Stablize Employment In Response to the COVID-19 Epidemic (http://www.hubei.gov.cn/zfwj/ezbf/202003/t20200327_2195351.shtml).

Recently, the Department of Water Resources of Hubei Province issued a document (http://www.hubei.gov.cn/zhuanti/2020/xgfyyqfkzszq/hygq/202003/t20200320_2186146.shtml) to further support the resumption of work. Under the document, the construction unit of major production and construction projects may resume the projects by making a commitment to implement soil and water protection measures appropriately to the local water resources department through internet or mail, as long as the construction unit completes the approval procedures for the soil and water protection measures within six months after the COVID-19 epidemic.

Starting from March 25, 2020, the travel restrictions for all cities and counties in Hubei Province, except for Wuhan, will be lifted. People will be allowed to leave the province if they have a green QR code (the indicator of people's health status) on their mobile phones (http://www.cnhubei.com/content/2020-03/24/content_12889380.html).

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

- Hubei People's Government (http://www.hubei.gov.cn/zhuanti/2020/xgfyyqfkzszq/)

- Relevant laws and regulations (https://book.yunzhan365.com/sarx/ywen/mobile/index.html)

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Hong Kong’s Responses to COVID-19


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The Center for Health Protection published a series of guidelines on the prevention and control of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (See Here). Among others, the Health Advice on Prevention of Coronavirus disease in Workplace (Interim) specifies the recommended precautionary measures for the employers to take at their workplaces to minimize the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. The Guide On Formulating Business Continuity Plan specifies the emergency preparedness and response requirements for the employers. In addition, the Prevention and Control of Disease (Requirements and Directions) (Business and Premises) Regulation (Cap. 599F) (https://www.elegislation.gov.hk/hk/cap599F) specifies the requirements for the companies engaged in the catering business and other entertainment businesses.

Maintaining social distancing is key to delay the spread of COVID-19. The Government published the Prevention and Control of Disease (Prohibition on Group Gathering) Regulation (Cap.599G) (https://www.elegislation.gov.hk/hk/cap599G) to prohibit any group gathering in any public place during a specified period. The current specified period is from 19 June 2020 to 2 July 2020.

The public is strongly urged to avoid non-essential travel outside Hong Kong. If it is unavoidable to travel to countries/areas outside Hong Kong, they should put on a surgical mask and continue to do so for 14 days upon their return to Hong Kong (See Here).

Starting from March 25, 2020, all non-Hong Kong residents arriving by air from overseas countries or regions are not allowed to enter Hong Kong. In addition, non-Hong Kong residents from the Mainland, Macau and Taiwan are not allowed to enter Hong Kong if they have visited overseas countries or regions in the past 14 days. (See Here) All people entering Hong Kong from the Mainland, Taiwan, and Macau are required to undergo compulsory quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival. (See Here)

In response to the recent development of the COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing, HongKong further strengthens the testing on Beijing travelers. If the traveler has been to Beijing in the past 14 days, he/she must possess proof of a negative testing result for the COVID-19 nucleic acid test that is taken within the past 7 days. (See Here)

From March 19, 2020, the Enhanced Laboratory Surveillance Programme, which provides a free testing service for COVID-19, will be further extended to cover asymptomatic persons under the Compulsory Quarantine of Persons Arriving at Hong Kong from Foreign Places Regulation (Cap. 599E) (https://www.elegislation.gov.hk/hk/cap599E) , with an aim of identifying cases of COVID-19 early in order to minimize the risk of community transmission.

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
- Department of Health (https://www.chp.gov.hk/en/resources/464/102466.html)
- The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (https://www.coronavirus.gov.hk/eng/index.html)

 

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Mexico’s Response to COVID-19


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Photo taken in Mexico City, Mexico

On March 26th, the Mexican Government restricted all economic activities except for the essential activities which include the provision of medical services and supplies, grocery stores and grocery delivery services, restaurant delivery and carryout services, assurance of public safety, maintenance of fundamental economic functions and government social programs, as well as the work in critical infrastructure. On April 16, the Government extended restrictions on non-essential economic activities in most municipalities until May 30. On June 1, the Mexican government will start plans to phase in certain non-essential economic activities in some states and municipalities under certain circumstances. Curfews and movement restrictions on non-essential activities are in place in certain municipalities and states, and citizens may be required to wear face masks.

On March 24, 2020, a Decree of the Secretary of Health was published on preventive measures that must be implemented to mitigate and control the health risks of the disease caused by COVID-19. Article 2 (a) of the Decree requires employers of both the public and private sectors to implement preventive measures that ensure that workers 65 years of age and older, and that belong to certain risk groups, including "pregnant or lactating women, children under 5 years of age, people with disabilities, people with chronic non-communicable diseases, or with any disease or pharmacological treatment that generates suppression of the immune system", are not present in workplaces to prevent them from being exposed to COVID-19. Based on these provisions, employers should consider implementing these measures and should ensure that workers in high-risk groups be sent home from work (See here).

 

Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
-Government of Mexico (https://coronavirus.gob.mx/)

 

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