The Presidential Decree No. 4,286 (“Decree”)1 declared a new State of Alarm throughout the country to mitigate and eradicate the risks related to the new Coronavirus (“COVID-19”). The Decree entered into force on September 6, 2020 and will be valid for 30 days renewable.2
The Decree is not an extension of the previous State of Alarm declared through Decree No. 4,247 of July 10, 2020 ("Decree No. 4,247")3 nor of the State of Alarm declared through the Decree No. 4,160 of March 13, 2020 (“Decree No. 4,160”), but that it refers to the declaration of a new State of Alarm. The Decree maintains the measures contained in the Decree No. 4,247, but stated that the sanitary and political circumstances that motivated the previous State of Alarm have worsened, and that it is indispensable to act with the utmost rigor adopting the measures.
- In further detail
In further detail
State of Alarm
It is decree a State of Alarm. As established in the Decree No. 4,160, Decree No. 4,198 and Decree No. 4.247, the Decree states that State of Alarm will allow the National Executive to adopt any urgent, effective and necessary measure to protect and preserve the Venezuelan population’s health against COVID-19.
2.1 The Decree orders the Public Powers in its national, state and municipal levels to urgently comply with the Decree’s provisions, and to inform the National Executive of all the situations affected by COVID-19.
2.2 The Decree’s measures are of immediate compliance and execution by all the corresponding authorities. The Ministries must issue resolutions under their individual scopes or joint resolutions to ensure the implementation of the Decree and protect constitutional guarantees such as life, health and security of citizens.
2.3 Individuals and legal entities are also subject to compliance of the Decree’s provisions and are individually responsible when their non-compliance puts citizens’ health at risk.
Immediate prevention measures
3.1 Health system. The Decree maintains the national health system in permanent emergency. Every authority, officer and public health establishment will continue to abide direct orders from the Ministry of Health, and every public and private health center must update information on their functionality and availability to treat detected and possible cases of COVID-19. 3.2 Transit restrictions. The President of the Republic may order transit restrictions on certain geographic areas to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the entrance and exit from those areas when necessary.
- Unlike the Decree No. 4,160, which states that restrictions are established through decrees, and maintaining the change made through the Decree No. 4,198 and Decree No. 4,247, the Decree mentions "acts of the National Executive." When these acts may declare transit restrictions, alternative measures shall be enforced to guarantee transit for:
- Acquiring essential goods such as food, medicine and medical products.
- Transportation to medical centers.
- Transportation of health sector personnel.
- Transportation of individuals and vehicles for operations not subject to transit restrictions according to the current legal system.
- Establishment of sanitation corridors, if necessary.
- Only one person per family, work group or other related group may circulate a restricted zone for the reasons listed above. The Ministries of transportation and interior relations will establish mechanisms for issuing trip authorizations.
- It is important to highlight that these restrictions have already been decreed through announcements made by the National Executive, in which it has been pointed out that the general population must remain in their homes, except for the exceptions mentioned above. It is important to be aware of the possible publication of these announcements in Official Gazette.
3.3 Suspension of activities.
- Labor activities. The President of the Republic may order the suspension of activities in a geographic area, this has already implemented according to announcements made by the National Executive (it is important to be aware of the possible publication of these announcements in the Official Gazette). According to the Decree, the suspension of activities includes the suspension of labor activities impossible to carry out by the employees from their domicile.
The aforementioned suspension has a series of legal implications that must be analyzed and determined based on the facts and circumstances of each specific case.
- School activities. The Decree maintains the suspension of academic and school activities in the national territory. The Ministry of Education will coordinate with public and private educational institutions to reprogram academic activities and find ways to implement remote or distance education, and shall issue resolutions for that purpose.
- Public events and places of public recreation. The Decree suspends every public spectacle, concert, exhibition, conference, sporting event and in general any event that implies agglomerations of people. Any establishment dedicated to these activities, including cafes, restaurants, parks, auditoriums, cinemas, among others, will be closed. Public and private parks, beaches and thermal spas will be closed to the public.
The Decree establishes that any other cultural, sporting or entertainment activity will not be cancelled, if it does not imply the agglomeration of people.
The Ministry for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace will coordinate this restriction with municipal authorities, and resolutions will define the limit of persons.
- Commercial flights suspensions. The President of the Republic may suspend flights to and from Venezuela when deemed necessary if there is a risk of entry of passengers or merchandise with COVID-19, or when the transit represents a risk of the virus’ contention. This suspension has already been ordered and there is currently a suspension of commercial flights. The Ministry with competence in areal transportation will dictate suspension measures through resolutions4.
The President, or the Executive Vice President in consultation with the Ministries of health, defense, interior relations, transportation, commerce, food and public services, may order the suspension of other activities in a certain geographic area.
- Banking activities. The Office of the Superintendent of Banking Sector Institutions (SUDEBAN) will publish the conditions for the provision of public and private banking services, and the suspension regime of banking services and labor activities for its workers.
3.4 Mandatory use of respiratory masks. Using respiratory masks that cover nose and mouth is mandatory for these cases:
- In all public land, maritime or air transport.
- In all land, maritime and air terminals.
- In public spaces where, due to the nature of the place or the non-suspended activity, a considerable number of people must attend, as long as said activity is not suspended.
- In all establishments that provide public and private health services, and nearby spaces.
- In supermarkets and other public areas not mentioned in the Decree.
The competent authorities of security, health and defense will take the necessary steps to comply with this measure.
3.5 Protocols. In the case of reception of passengers at airport ports, the protocols issued by the Ministry of Health and the recommendations issued by the World Health Organization ("WHO") will be strictly followed. Health service establishments will adapt their guidelines to the protocols. The Ministry of Health may give direct orders to private health establishments when deemed necessary for the Decree’s execution. 3.6 Exceptions to the suspension. These activities shall not be subject to suspensions:
- Public service companies, such as electricity, information technology and telecommunications companies.
- Expenditures of lubricants and fuel.
- Activities of the public and private sector health service providers, stories such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, comprehensive care centers and other health facilities.
- Pharmacies and duly authorized medicine distribution establishment.
- Custody and transit of securities.
- Companies that expend short-duration medicines, dry ice, oxygen and other gases and liquids necessary for medical care centers.
- Activities within the distribution chain of food and availability of foods nationally.
- Activities related to the National Port System.
- Transportation activities of drinkable water, solid or liquid aluminum sulfate, aluminum polichlorum, calcium hypochlorite or sodium gas (up to cylinders of 2,000 pounds or canisters of 150 pounds).
- Companies that expend and transport gas for domestic use and gasoline for land, maritime and air transportation.
- Activities of production, processing, transformation, distribution and commercialization of food, issuance of unique guidelines for mobilization, monitoring and control of agri-food products, conditioned, transformed and finished, transport and supply of inputs for agricultural use and harvests of agricultural items, and all those that ensure the functioning of the National Integrated Agri-Food System.
- Food distribution establishments may only be allowed to lend delivery or pickup services.
Collection of medical products
- Externally. The Ministry of Health will make an inventory of medicines used in other countries to tackle COVID-19. After that, the Ministry of Finance will take measures so the purchase of those medicines depending on the gravity of the case.
- Internally. The National Executive, through its Ministries of Health, Commerce, Industries and Finance, will guarantee the production of essential medicines in the protocols for diagnosis and treatment to tackle COVID-19 giving priority to the import of medicines and products for diagnosis and treatment.
Evaluation of hospitals’ conditions
The competent health authorities must evaluate the safety conditions of hospital buildings, to order: (i) reconditioning works that are required in the short term, whether temporary or permanent, to respond to the health emergency; and (ii) the construction of temporary or permanent works that are necessary to respond to the health emergency.
Measures in case of contagion or suspicion of contagion of COVID-19:
- Suspected or diagnosed cases. Patients suspected of having contracted COVID-19, and those in whom the diagnosis of COVID-19 has been confirmed according to the duly certified detection test, must remain in quarantine and isolation until it has been proven by said test that they no longer they pose a risk to spread the virus, even if they have mild symptoms.
- Social distancing. The Decree added that the National Executive might establish social distancing measures for categories of activities or geographic areas, which the National Executive could differentiate through periods.
- Exposed individuals. These individuals must remain in quarantine for two weeks:
- If they had direct contact with a suspected or diagnosed patient due to professional, technical or work activities related to healthcare.
- if they visited suspected or diagnosed patients.
- If they were in a same setting as suspected or diagnosed patients, due to work, academic, professional or social activities of any kind.
- If they traveled through land, air or sea with a suspected or diagnosed patient.
- If they lived with a suspected or diagnosed case of COVID-19 14 days after symptoms appeared.
- If they had direct contact with suspected or diagnosed COVID-19 patients
- Whoever is notified by the Ministry of Health as a possible carrier of COVID-19.
The Ministry of Health will develop the quarantine’s conditions for the aforementioned cases.
- Obligation to inform. The exposed, suspicious or infected people must provide the competent authorities in matters of health, citizen security, or the comprehensive defense of the nation, all the information necessary to determine the form of contagion to which they were exposed and the scope that could have had as a propagation agent. This information may only be used to monitor the progress of COVID-19, take measures in favor of the person and their close community, or other measures established in the Decree.
- Non-compliance. Compliance with quarantine and social distancing is mandatory. In the event of non-compliance with quarantine or social distancing measures, the competent authorities in matters of citizen security, health and comprehensive defense of the nation will take the necessary measures to maintain or transfer the individual to his/her place of residence or medical establishment, or under special alternative measures, as appropriate.
- Inspection powers. Public security forces can make inspections when deemed necessary if there is a reasonable doubt regarding non-compliance with the quarantine or social distancing
Presidential Commission for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19
The Presidential Commission for the Prevention and Control of COVID-19 created in the Decree No. 4,160 (“Commission”), will continue to coordinate and assess matters related to implementing the measures to mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19.
- Members of the Commission. The Executive Vice President will preside the Commission. The Commission’s members will be the Ministries of Health, Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, Defense, Science and Technology, Education, University Education, Industry and National Production, national Commerce, Economy and Finance, Indigenous Communities, Communes and Social Movements, Transportation, and a representative of the National Coordinating Committee for Civil Protection and Disaster Administration. The Vice President may invite other authorities as advisors. Any public and private legal entity will support the Commission when deemed convenient.
- Commission’s powers. The Commission will have these powers:
- Assess the President of the Republic on the measures to be implemented to control the spread of COVID-19.
- Coordinate that all entities adopt WHO’s protocols.
- Coordinate the endowment of health centers especially designated to control the pandemic.
- Coordinate the necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Overview the update of the confirmed cases database.
- Coordinate actions of security authorities.
- Coordinate with Attorney General of the Republic to create the necessary norms to progressively reactivate the normality of activities in the country.
- Any other power assigned by the President of the Republic.
- Executive secretary. The Commission will have an executive secretary appointed by the Commission’s President, who will process all information referred by the Decree, coordinate technical working groups, and periodically will provide accountability to the Commission.
- Daily reports. The Commission’s President will present a daily report to the President of the Republic on recent activities and developments.
- Headquarters and expenses. The Commission will have its seat at the Executive Vice Presidency’s office and the budget of that office will cover the Commission’s expenses.
- Additional measures. The President of the Republic may issue additional social, economic and sanitary measures deemed convenient under the State of Alarm and under the norms related to States of Exception, to fulfill the Decree’s objectives.
- Suspension of administrative procedures. The suspension or interruption of an administrative procedure because of the restriction of movement measures that are dictated may not be considered as a cause attributable to the interested party, but neither may it be considered as a delay or failure to comply with the obligations of the Public Administration. As soon as the restriction ceases, the administrative procedure will continue.
- Judicial Procedures. The Decree exhorts the Supreme Court of Justice to take measures that regulate the different situations that may arise due to the Decree and its effects on judicial proceedings and its’ functionality.
- Decree’s implementation by citizens. The Decree urges all citizens to develop and implement self-protection actions against COVID-19, which complement the Decree’s measures and the ones issued by the National Executive.
- Referral. The Decree will be sent to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice to rule on its constitutionality.5
- Execution. The Executive Vice-presidency will enforce the Decree.