What measures can the State take to stop the spread of COVID-19? Could the Government or other public entities impose restrictions on me (for example, limit freedom of circulation, restrict my establishment’s opening hours) based on the need to fight the COVID-19?
- The COVID-19 could also warrant regulatory or authoritative measures on the part of Government with a direct impact on private businesses, including suspending their activity or shutting down services, establishments and public and private use places, or the compulsory internment or provision of health care to persons who constitute a danger to public health – as has already occured with the restrictions imposed on the operation of educational institutions and commercial and restaurants and bars (Article 12 of Decree-Law 10-A/2020 and Ordinance 71/2020, of 15 March), as well as the limitation on the opening hours of bars (Order No. 3299/2020 of 14 March).Businesses can anticipate those measures and set up a plan of action in the event of contagion, quarantine, compulsory shutdown, limitations to air travel or circulation and shutdown of non-essential public services.Services of potential public use – such as transport, temporary accommodation, private health establishments, laboratories, pharmacies, producers and suppliers of medicines and medical devices used to prevent, diagnose or treat the COVID-19 – and any employees of those utilities – should not rule out the possibility of civil requisition.
Am I under an obligation to abide by the guidelines and public health protection measures of the authorities?
- Public health guidelines issued by authorities are not always binding. However, compliance with those guidelines is linked to the performance of care duties, which may in turn protect and release your company from any damage claims based on tort (or other reasons).Your company should therefore be prepared to identify and react quickly and appropriately to any legislative or regulatory amendments and to review mere instructions or guidelines.Your company should also duly record any prevention measures taken by your own initiative or to comply with any laws, guidelines or administrative regulations in connection with the COVID-19.
Am I entitled to compensation for any restrictions imposed by those measures?
- In very exceptional circumstances, the State could be forced to pay compensation based on any measures adopted to fight the COVID-19 which, although legal, caused special and unusual damages. The State could enact a specific act creating exceptional compensation or liability limitation regimes.