The COVID-19 crisis has been a human and commercial disaster of unprecedented scale. We cannot escape the cruel way that it has impacted upon everyone’s lives and businesses. We can only bend our heads in thought and meditation.

However, we now need to lift our eyes to the stars and look to the future as we prepare for the so-called “New Normal”.

In order to support our clients and contacts build and implement their strategies for a fight back, we have developed this no-cost aid – The COVID Restart Tracker.

Which countries are currently on lock down? When can shops, cafes, restaurants reopen?

International franchisors who operate across multiple countries, are finding it difficult to keep track of local regulations as they adapt and change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To make this easier, we have used our international reach via our offices and local contacts to create the COVID Restart Tracker. It covers multiple jurisdictions and asks key questions regarding the status of lock down that will inevitably impact all sectors. Our goal is to stimulate positive and strategic thinking on how and when businesses can plan their gradual return to business as usual.

The COVID Restart Tracker will constantly change and adapt to try and best meet the needs of our clients’ and contacts and in due course will be delivering a deeper level of information and support. If you would like more information about any of the issues or jurisdictions covered by the tracker please contact us: [email protected].

 

Key
 Status
  Lockdown applies
  Lockdown restrictions being eased
  No Lockdown

franchise map

*Information in the map and below updated as at 02. July 2020, content updated frequently.

Australia

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes. (Although restrictions are easing)

  • Australia's states and territories each have their own regulations and orders in place to effect a lock down. The Federal Government has made recommendations for the easing of restrictions, and each state and territory will implement an easing of restrictions as they see appropriate.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • At a state and territory level some restrictions are being lifted. While the Federal Government has released a three step plan to move out of lockdown, each state and territory will implement its own regulations in line with their local conditions.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No franchise specific laws have been amended

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes. While many retailers have been shut, as restrictions on gathering ease more stores are re-opening.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Each state and territory is implementing a relaxation of the lock down orders on its own timetable and with its own specific requirements, including in relation to venue capacity, social distancing, and requirements for COVID-19 safety plans.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes. In NSW for example, cafes and restaurants can do take away/home delivery. Small bars are permitted to do home delivery

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes - subject to criteria

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes - but through the businesses employing them

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

On 7 April 2020 the National Cabinet announced a mandatory code of conduct applying to small and medium commercial tenancies impacted by COVID-19. Each jurisdiction will introduce its own legislation to implement the Code.

Local Contacts

Lynne Lewis - Bird & Bird LLP


Belgium

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • The country closed all restaurants, cafes and party venues as of 14 March 2020. As of 18 March 2020, the whole country entered into lockdown:
    • All schools, non-food retailers and gyms are closed.
    • Only pharmacies and food retailers are allowed to open, subject to security measures.
    • Homeworking is mandatory for all professions where it is possible. For the others, social distancing measures are mandatory. If these measures cannot be respected, the enterprise needs to shut down.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Since 18 April 2020, DIY stores, garden centres and tree nurseries are allowed to open, subject to security measures.
  • The Security Council has announced a progressive de-confinement as of 4 May 2020, organized in different stages and subject to security measures (the detail of which is not yet known):
    • 4 May : reopening of several businesses and stores
    • 11 May: reopening of most stores
    • 18 May: progressive reopening of schools
    • 8 June: progressive reopening of the sector of hotels, restaurants, bars, cafés, etc.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

No.

  • The reopening of haberdasheries and fabric shops is planned as of 4 May 2020, given their importance in the production of masks.
  • The reopening of most stores is planned as of 11 May 2020.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

No.

  • A progressive reopening of that sector and other (such as movie theatres) is planned as of 8 June 2020.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Take-away and delivery are allowed, provided that social distancing measures are respected and queues are limited.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

The government has taken several measures to provide assistance to businesses, such as:

  • temporary unemployment benefit for force majeure until 30 June 2020, increased by 65 to 70%
  • implementation of a delayed payment plan for VAT, social security contributions, payroll tax and corporate income tax
  • regional measures, e.g. allowances for businesses
  • measures regarding insolvency: temporary moratorium on creditor's legal and contractual remedies, immunity from being subject to precautionary or enforceable seizure, suspension of enforcement proceedings against the company's assets.
  • mortgage credit aid: deferral of payment or extension of the term of credit is possible for businesses facing difficulties in paying their mortgage credit following the Covid-19 crisis.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

The government has taken several measures to provide assistance to employees and self-employed persons, such as:

  • temporary unemployment benefit for force majeure
  • reduction of advance payments for self-employed persons
  • deferral or exemption from payment of social security contributions for self-employed persons
  • replacement income in favor of self-employed persons
  • regional measures, i.e., allowances for self-employed persons
  • mortgage credit aid: deferral of payment or extension of the term of credit is possible for self-employed persons facing difficulties in paying their mortgage credit following the Covid-19 crisis

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No.

  • This depends from the circumstances and/or the contractual terms.
  • First thing is therefore to check the contract: it may provide for a specific regime (hardship clause, force majeure clause).
  • Absent such a governing clause, the parties are always free to renegotiate the contract. However, this entails both parties being willing to renegotiate the contract. Indeed, there is no(t yet) such thing as a doctrine of hardship under Belgian law, which would allow a party to suspend/arrange the execution of the contract due to circumstances which upset the balance of the contract.
  • The Belgian government has decided to temporarily protect debtors whose continuity is affected by the coronavirus crisis by i.e. imposing a stay on creditors’ right to enforce debts or to terminate existing agreements early on the basis of shortcoming. This also implies that lease agreements cannot be dissolved unilaterally or by the courts based on the non-payment of rent (except when the lessor can demonstrate that e.g. the tenant's business continuity is threatened by reasons other than in relation to the coronavirus pandemic).
  • While this argument is the subject of a controversy, it could be argued that - because of the lockdown measures - the lessor (temporarily) cannot ensure the right to undisturbed enjoyment of the leased property to the tenants. This may qualify as a force majeure or fait du prince event, which would suspend the obligations of the lessor. Even if, in principle, the payment of the rent is not rendered impossible for the tenant, based on the so-called theory of risks, the financial risk is borne by the party which is freed by the force majeure event (in the present case: the lessor). This may constitute a basis for the commercial tenant to justify that no rent is due. However, as mentioned, this argument is controversial.

Local Contacts

Jean-Christophe Troussel - Bird & Bird LLP

 

Brazil

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • Firstly, it is important to highlight that, in Brazil, the social isolation measures and restrictions to shops and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic are being issued and imposed by the state and municipal authorities. In view of this, it is not possible to provide an accurate response that is applicable to the whole country.

  • That said, most states in Brazil are adopting only “social isolation” rules, which began on March 11, 2020, when the Federal District suspended classes and events that needed government licenses and permits to take place.

  • Most states have also issued mandatory rules for wearing protective masks at all times when leaving home.


Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • The Brazilian President has rallied for the end of “social isolation” restrictions.

  • In this sense, plans have been created to restart the economy. Most Brazilian states are implementing a gradual easing of these “social isolation” restrictions in phases, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

  • However, as the number of cases of COVID-19 infections and victims is still high in Brazil, many states are alternating between easing or re-tightening social isolation measures.


Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • No amendments have been made to the Brazilian Franchise Law due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • For information purposes, a new Franchise Law came into force on March 26, 2020 (Brazilian Federal Law No. 13,966 of 2019), but it has not relation to COVID-19.


Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Several federal decrees issued by the Brazilian President have defined 57 activities and services as “essential”, which are therefore authorised to operate.

  • Some examples of such services are: (i) health care; (ii) public and private safety; (iii) production, distribution, sale and delivery, either in person or by e-commerce, of products for health, hygiene, among others; (iv) beauty salons and barber shops; (v) gyms.

  • More non-food retailers are now beginning to reopen because social isolation restrictions are being lifted. This reflects the general trend of the gradual resumption of economic activities in Brazil.

  • However, despite such federal decrees, in Brazil, each State or Municipal Government can decide on the restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic and therefore can determine which non-food retailers should be closed and which can still operate in each city and state.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • As a general rule, restaurants, cafes and bars are now being allowed to be reopen for dining in, as a consequence of the easing of the social isolation restrictions and gradual resumption of economic activities.

    • However, restaurants/cafes/bars are only permitted to be open with restrictions, including safety measures and capacity restrictions.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • As a general rule, restaurants, cafes and bars are allowed to operate take-away and delivery services

  • Restaurants, cafes and bars are adopting special safety and hygiene measures for take-away and delivery.


Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Brazilian Federal government has issued several Provisional Measures and has created rules to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Such measures include the offering of emergency credit lines, the  possibility of reducing wages and working hours, more time for companies to collect the Severance Indemnity Fund for employees (FGTS), more time to pay federal taxes and the relaxation of some labour rules (such as home office, vacation and hour bank rules).


Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Brazilian President sanctioned a law that establishes the payment of an “emergency aid” of 600.00 Brazilian Reais for three months to informal workers, unemployed, self-employed, individual micro-entrepreneurs and individuals that contribute to the Social Security fund, beginning from April 2020.

  • For families where the woman is solely responsible for the payment of the household expenses, the monthly amount paid will be adjusted to 1,200.00 Brazilian Reais.

  • The Brazilian Government recently announced a new extension of such “emergency aid” until December 2020. However, the amount paid by the Government will be reduced to 300.00 Brazilian Reais.


Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No.

  • The Brazilian Federal government has not provided any official support or relief specifically targeted at commercial tenants.

  • Demands regarding relief for commercial tenants are being requested in Court. The Brazilian court is analysing the particularities of each case and, based on that, granting or rejecting the requests.

  • After negotiating with the Brazilian Association of Shopping Centers (Abrasce), the Brazilian Association of Shopping Tenants (Alshop) issued a note on 03/23/2020 stating that: (a) the rent amount due in March would be charged proportionately and negotiated in the future; (b) the payment of rent would be suspended while malls are closed; (c) the collection of condominium fees would be eased and reduced; and (d) the amount of promotion fund would be renegotiated in each project, with the possibility of a temporary reduction of up to 90%.

Local Contacts

Paula Mena Barreto - CMA Law


Cambodia

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • Cambodia was in lockdown from 24:00 Thursday April 9, 2020 to 6:00 Thursday April 16, 2020.

  • While the lockdown was effective, traveling from one province to another, and entering and exiting Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital city) was prohibited.

  • Solely for implementing this lock down, Phnom Penh was considered as part of Kandal province (an area surrounding Phnom Penh), so traveling within and between Phnom Penh and Kandal Province was permitted.

  • The lock down was supposed to end on 24:00 Thursday, April 16, 2020, but the government lifted the lockdown early (6:00 Thursday, April 16, 2020) to ease traffic jams.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

  • The lock down has now ended

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • Although local franchise laws have not been amended as a result of COVID-19, on 27 June 2020, Cambodia approved joining the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. As a result of joining this convention, laws that relate to franchising, such as the Law Concerning Marks, Trade Names and Acts of Unfair Competition may be amended in the future.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • All business are allowed to be open as normal with the exception of several businesses and activities.

  • As a COVID-19 preventive measure, Cambodia put temporary bans all kinds of sports and fitness activities that involve gathering together, fitness centres, massage and spa businesses, entertainment clubs and karaokes, barber and beauty salons, casinos, cinemas, concerts, beer gardens, museums (including the Royal Palace), and all religious gatherings.

  • These bans are indefinite, and they will probably be lifted when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

  • In early July, the government announced that all casinos would be allowed to re-open, but only with limited games and slot machines.

  • On July 7, 2020, Phnom Penh Capital Hall announced that business owners of entertainment clubs and karaokes can open for business by converting into restaurants, and complying with guidelines to combat of COVID-19.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants and cafes are open as normal.

  • It is unclear if bars are captured by the COVID-19 bans on certain businesses referred to in the answer above but it has been reported that a number of popular bar areas have been shut down.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Cambodia has not issued any restrictions on take-away and delivery services.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • Employers have been relieved of the obligation to make seniority payments in 2020.

  • Withholding tax on new loans from foreign and domestic sources has been reduced to 5% for 2020 and 10% for 2021, with the normal rate of 14% resuming in 2022. For existing loans, the withholding tax has been reduced to 10% for 2020, with the normal rate resuming in 2021.

  • As for the airlines industry, all airlines registered in Cambodia will be exempt from their obligation to pay a minimum tax and tax on income for June and July of 2020.

  • The Agriculture Rural Development Bank (ARDB) dropped interest rates on loans for working capital from 6% to 5%, and on loans for investment capital from 6.5% to 5.5%. Further, the maximum term of ARDB investment loans has been shortened to five years (from seven years), and working capital loan terms remain capped at a two-year maximum tenure.

  • The Ministry of Economy and Finance ("MEF") introduced an additional USD 200 million into the Credit Guarantee Fund so that businesses who may have previously faced difficulty accessing loans have the ability to obtain working capital. In addition, the MEF has also prepared additional financing of USD 300 million to promote growth in primary sectors during and after the crisis.

  • The Ministry of Tourism ("MOT") has continued tax exemptions for all monthly taxes paid by hotels, guesthouses, and travel agencies.

  • The MOT has also provided exemptions for all tourism license renewal fees for 2021 from 1 January 2021 to 21 December 2021. This will only apply for the licenses which are still valid. Fines will be imposed if the licenses have expired.

  • Tourism businesses that have been unable to resume operations will be exempt from making monthly contributions to the National Social Security Fund.

  • SMEs in certain priority sectors can borrow up to USD 200,000 for working capital and up to USD 300,000 for investment capital. The maximum interest rate on these loans is 7% per year, and the repayment period has now been lengthened to seven years (from four).

  • On April 2020, the National Bank of Cambodia requested all banks and financial institutions to consider offering their customers financial relief, such as reducing credit-related fees and waiving any penalties until December 2020 to lessen their financial burden.

  • On March 27, 2020, the National Bank of Cambodia issued a directive to all banks and financial institutions to restructure loans in order to maintain financial stability, support economic activity, and ease the burden of debtors facing major revenue declines who may find it difficult to repay loans during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. Clients in tourism, garments, constructions and transportation sectors should be prioritized.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • On 8 July 2020, the MOLVT issued a Notification on subsidised allowances for suspended employees in the clothes and tourism sectors.
  • On April 8, 2020, Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training issued an instruction to its staff not to impose any late penalties on non-Cambodian workers who want to renew their 2019 foreign work permits but have failed to meet the initial renewal deadline, effective until further notice.

  • On April 7, 2020, Cambodia’s Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training released an urgent notification to postpone the Cambodian New Year holiday and require all employers and employees to treat April 13 to April 16, 2020, as regular working days. As a compensation, 5 days of holiday will be given to employees at suitable time when COVID-19 is no longer a risk.

  • On March 23, 2020, the Ministry of Labor and Vocation Training called for an update of contact numbers of all workers in Cambodia to ensure that the ministry can contact them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training announced available financial packages to help employees suspended because of COVID-19. Suspended employees in the textile, garment, and footwear sectors are entitled to a flat benefit of USD 70 (the government would pay USD 40 and employers would pay USD 30) every month. On the other hand, suspended employees in the tourism sector will receive a flat benefit of USD 40 from the government monthly, while their employers have the discretion to pay an amount of wages to employees on a voluntary basis and based on the employers’ actual financial position.

  • On 12 June 2020, the government implemented a cash subsidy program for poor and vulnerable families. Payments range from USD 6 to USD 30 per month. 
     

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • Cambodia’s Prime Minister has urged the private sector to reduce or defer rental fees, but no legal requirement to do so is yet in place.

  • Cambodia’s Ministry of Education Youth and Sports suggested landlords and commercial banks should reduce rent for educational institutions to lessen financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19.

  • Note that relief is not mandatory.

Local Contacts

Thomas Joseph Treutler - Tilleke & Gibbins

 

Canada

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • Though the federal government has not instituted mandatory closure orders, all provinces and territories in Canada have declared states of emergencies or public health emergencies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which either require a partial closure of businesses or mandatory closures of all non-essential businesses.

  • Most provinces have banned large public gatherings, restricted the size of social gatherings and closed public schools to slow down the spread of COVID-19.

  • In addition to provincial measures, many municipalities have implemented emergency orders and by-laws regulating physical distancing. For example, the City of Toronto has implemented by-laws banning organised social gatherings of more than five people, restricting short-term rentals only to individuals in need of housing during the emergency period and prohibiting people from remaining closer than 2 metres to any other person who is not a member of the same household, in parks or public squares.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

No.

  • Some provinces, including Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec, have released plans to ease lock down restrictions, but only New Brunswick has actually eased some lock down restrictions, reopening parks and beaches in the province.

  • Most lock down restrictions planned to be eased in stages, which can take several weeks to months to implement.

  • Provinces and territories continue to urge all residents to avoid all non-essential travel outside the province or territory.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • In Canada, six provinces have enacted franchise statutes that regulate the offering of franchises and the franchise relationship. In the four other provinces, and territories, franchises are governed by general contract law principles.

  • There have been no amendments to the provincial franchise laws in Canada in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

No.

  • In most provinces, non-food retailers, such as clothing stores, are considered non-essential and have been required to close their stores.

  • However, big-box retailers and convenience stores that sell groceries and food in addition to non-food items have been permitted to stay open.

  • Some retailers are permitted to continue operating through online sales, are permitted to deliver products and in some provinces, are permitted to offer curb-side pick-up.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

No.

  • In all provinces and territories, restaurants, bars and cafes are prohibited from allowing on-premises dining.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • In all provinces and territories, restaurants, cafes and bars are prohibited from allowing on-premises dining, but restaurants and cafes have been permitted operate on a take-out, drive-through and/or delivery basis only.

  • In addition, some provinces, including Ontario and Prince Edward Island, have amended regulations to allow some restaurants, cafes and bars to deliver alcohol with a food order.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Government of Canada has announced and implemented a COVID-19 Economic Reponses Plan, part of which provides various types of support to businesses.

  • Some of the support the federal government is providing to businesses includes a wage subsidy which generally covers 75% of wages of eligible employees, access to guaranteed credit, access to loans including interest-free loans to small businesses, part of which is forgivable if certain conditions are met, and rent relief for certain commercial businesses.

  • In addition to federal government support, many provinces are supporting businesses, largely through tax reductions and deferrals and lowering energy costs.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The Government of Canada has implemented the Canada Emergency Responses Benefit (“CERB”), which provides eligible workers, including employees and self-employed individuals, up to C$500 per week for a maximum of 16 weeks.

  • The CERB is available from March 15, 2020 to October 3, 2020, with a possibility of it being extended as the situation evolves.

  • To be eligible for the CERB, a person must have stopped working because of reasons related to COVID-19 and have not made more than $1,000 in income for a period of at least 14 consecutive days within the four-week benefit period being claimed. Individuals who are eligible for Employment Insurance benefits or who have exhausted certain Employment Insurance benefit may also be eligible for the CERB.

  • The CERB is available to those who have lost their job because of COVID-19, are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19, are taking care of others that are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19, and/or are taking care of children or other dependents because their care facility is closed due to COVID-19. The CERB is not available to those who voluntarily quit their job.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • While not yet available, the Government of Canada, in partnership with all provinces and territories, has announced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program (“CECRA”), which when implemented will lower rent by 75% for small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19.

  • CECRA will be structured as a forgivable loan for qualifying commercial landlords and is intended to create a mechanism whereby 50% of commercial rent that would otherwise be owed by eligible tenants will be paid by the provincial/territorial and federal governments. The remaining 50% will be covered by the landlord and the tenant, with each contributing 25%.

  • To be eligible for CECRA, tenants must be small businesses paying less than C$50,000 a month in total rent and must have ceased operations or experienced at least a 70% drop in pre-COVID-19 revenue.

  • To qualify for CECRA, landlords are required to reduce their rent for eligible tenants by at least 75% under a rent forgiveness agreement and agree not to evict eligible tenants while the agreement is in place.

Local Contacts

Larry Weinberg - Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

 

China

Is the country currently in lock down?

No. China has eased lockdown.

  • On April 8, China officially lifted outbound travel restrictions and ended the lockdown of Wuhan. Chinese authorities have removed almost all travel bans and lockdowns across provinces and cities, but some restrictive measures remain effective.

  • Cities throughout China are now divided into high-risk areas, medium-risk areas and low-risk areas.

  • Most parts of China are low-risk areas, which have already resumed normal life, while high-risk areas still under epidemic control.

  • Medium-risk areas' restrictions vary depending on the epidemic situation and subject to detailed local requirements.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes

  • Lockdown restrictions have been gradually eased for medium-risk areas and low-risk areas since mid-March 2020.

  • In the high-risk areas, the restrictions are still being maintained according to the epidemic situation.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Non-food retailers are in general permitted to open in low-risk areas.

  • Non-food retailers in medium-risk areas shall restore production and normal life according to the local epidemic situation and detailed local requirements.

  • Non-food retailers in high-risk areas are not allowed to open.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants/cafes/bars are in general permitted to open in low-risk areas.

  • Restaurants/cafes/bars in medium-risk areas are in general required to suspend their operations or open in a limited capacity according to local epidemic situation and detailed local requirements.

  • Restaurants/cafes/bars in high-risk areas are not allowed to open.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • It is allowed, but it should be noted that certain protective measures are encouraged to be used.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Chinese government has launched a comprehensive set of measures to support businesses, including but not limited to:
  • providing credit support to companies which suffered most during COVID-19,

  • reducing interest on company loans and extending repayment periods and granting loans without the borrower having to pay off the principal first,

  • exempting/reducing rent costs,

  • allowing delays for social insurance payments or waiving late payment fees for social insurance.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes. 

  • The government has encouraged discussions on wages between enterprises and employees during the epidemic period. The local government has instructed enterprises to consult with employees in accordance with relevant national regulations on wage payment during suspension of work and production.

  • For employees who are unable to work due to quarantine in accordance with the law, enterprises must pay their wages according to normal rates. After the quarantine period, employees who still cannot work due to treatment must be paid according to the relevant provisions of the medical period.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • See comment under Q7

Local Contacts

Sven-Michael Werner - Bird & Bird LLP

Czech Republic

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • No, although there is still a number of measures limiting to a certain extent the free movement of certain individuals.

  • The state of emergency was lifted as of 18 May 2020 and the state borders are now partially open.

  • As of 1 July 2020, an updated "traffic lights" system was introduced. The system divides Schengen countries into two categories (zones) depending on their epidemiological situation and lays down specific conditions for crossing the Czech borders (e.g. a COVID-19 test may be required for individuals traveling from certain countries).

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • After a period of loosening the measures adopted during lockdown, new country-wide measures have now been adopted in response to the current epidemiological situation (as of 1 September 2020 it will be required to wear face masks again indoors and on public transportation). Many businesses must observe a number of special hygiene measures. Additional restrictions may be implemented locally in regions with increased infection rates.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

  • In the Czech Republic, there is no legislation dedicated specifically to franchising.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Yes, non-food retailers are permitted to be open as of 11 May 2020.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Yes, as of 25 May 2020.

  • However, customers must be advised to keep a distance of 2 meters and be asked to pay by card if possible.

  • Hand sanitiser must be available to customers when entering both indoor and outdoor areas of a restaurant/cafe/bar.

  • Tables and chairs must be disinfected before seating every new group of customers.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • The distance of 2 meters should be observed in the waiting area.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs released a financial support programme "ANTIVIRUS" for the employers affected COVID-19 and the governmental measures.

  • On the basis of this programme, employers (affected by the closure of operation resulting from the anti-epidemic measures and/or quarantine imposed on an employee) may be provided with financial support from public funds in the amount of 80% of the super-gross wage (amount paid by the employer, including social security and health insurance contributions) up to the maximum amount of CZK 39,000. This part of the ANTIVIRUS programme will run until the end of August 2020.

  • In case of related economic difficulties, employers may be provided with financial support from the public funds in the amount of 60% the super-gross wage up to the maximum amount of CZK 29,000. This part of the ANTIVIRUS programme has been prolonged until the end of August 2020.

  • Recently, the Government has also introduced a new proposal under which employers employing less than 50 employees who have not received financial support from the ANTIVIRUS programme (and subject to further conditions) would not have to pay social security contributions and contribution to the state employment policy for the period from June to August 2020.

  • Employers employing less than 50 employees who have not received financial support from the ANTIVIRUS programme (and subject to further conditions) do not have to pay social security contributions or contribute to the state employment policy for the period from June to August 2020. 

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The care-giver allowance has been increased from 60% to 80% of the average pay, retrospectively from April 1 until 30 June 2020.

  • Sole traders are not obliged to pay the minimum social security and health insurance contributions, state employment policy and pension contributions for a period from March to August 2020.

  • Individuals working under agreements for work performed outside of an employment relationship who were negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak and who meet certain conditions can apply for financial support of CZK 350 a day for the period of 12 March to 8 June 2020.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • A landlord cannot unilaterally terminate the lease solely on the ground of the lessee's default in paying the rent during the "protection period" (until 31 December 2020).

  • A lessee is obligated to prove that the default occurred in the "relevant period" and mainly due to the constraints arising from the extraordinary measures during the epidemics, which had made it impossible or materially difficult to pay the rent.

Local Contacts

Vojtech Chloupek - Bird & Bird LLP


Denmark

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Lock down restrictions have gradually been lifted. However, after an increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, the planned reopening has been halted. For example, the planned reopening of discotheques and nightclubs is postponed until at least 31 October 2020. The government is also making face masks compulsory on all public transport from 22 August 2020.
  • The ban on assemblies of over 100 people remains. Several exceptions do however apply, e.g. at private homes, at locations at which customers/visitors are mainly seated and at funerals.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

  • There are no specific franchise laws in Denmark.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes (with several caveats)

  • Non-food retailers are allowed to open but are subject to guidelines, i.e. on hygiene, ensuring a distance between customers, setting up awareness posters.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes. 

  • Restaurants and cafes are allowed to sell food or drinks for consumption on the premises.
  • Restaurants and cafes can stay open from 5 am to 2 am if they do not let new people in after 11 pm. This applies to both indoor and outdoor areas.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

The Danish government has put several aid packages in place for businesses.

  • Highlights include:
  • Compensation on fixed costs
  • Salary compensation schemes
  • Extended limit for the state-guaranteed loan scheme for large companies and SME’s
  • Relaxation of certain corporate and accounting duties, e.g. extension of the deadlines to submit annual reports and conduct annual “general meetings”
  • SME’s who have paid VAT for the second half and fourth quarter of 2019 may apply to be reimbursed with an interest-free loan.

On 15 June 2020 a political agreement was reached regarding the gradual “phase out” of the various aid packages. The aid packages have been replaced by a comprehensive economic recovery package. The Danish political parties still, however, want to compensate particularly vulnerable industries and have therefore decided to extend some parts of the aid packages, e.g. the compensation of fixed costs.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Employers: A salary compensation scheme is in place until 29 August 2020. As such, the salary compensation scheme has now ended.
  • The headlights are:
    • The scheme covers monthly paid and hourly paid employees as well as employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement and employees who are not.
    • The Danish state provides salary compensation of 75% to 90% of the monthly salary for employees who are sent home due to extraordinary economic downturn due to COVID-19 situation This is applicable for companies who would otherwise terminate: (i) at least 30% of their staff or (ii) at least 50 employees. It is a requirement that the company does not terminate any employees while receiving salary compensation.

For self employed individuals, there is a compensation scheme in place until 8 August 2020. Thereafter, self-employed individuals will be entitled to unemployment benefits on more lenient terms. 

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • The Danish government has agreed to cover some fixed costs (such as rent). The relief for commercial tenants will expire on 8 July 2020.

  • Up until that point, companies will receive compensation for documented fixed costs if they have experienced a decline in turnover of 35-60% and they have fixed costs equivalent to at least DKK 12,500 during a three-month period. Such companies will be granted 25% compensation on fixed costs.
  • The compensation for fixed costs has been extended for commercial tenants who are particularly affected by COVID-19. The compensation period in these cases has been extended until 31 August 2020. After 31 August 2020, the compensation for fixed costs will end.

Local Contacts

Jesper Langemark - Bird & Bird LLP

 

Finland

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

The government recommendation is to work remotely until 1 August, if possible.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

N/A.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • There are some limitations in respect of social distancing (limited seating, limited opening hours etc.)

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No

  • There is no rent specific relief, but general support may be used to cover costs (including rent).

Local Contacts

Jori Taipale - Bird & Bird LLP

France

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • The national lockdown ended on May 11th with some restrictions remaining. Specific measures are notably in public transportation services where wearing a mask is mandatory and in some places like cafés, bars and restaurants where social distancing measures must be implemented (e.g. limiting the number of customers allowed at the same time in restaurants).

  • At the end of lockdown, a distinction was created between 'red' and 'green' phases based on a sanitary assessment of the situation regarding the COVID-19 which will define the extend of the restrictions. The assessment was made on May 11th, then on May 28th and finally on june 15th. Today, only two areas are still in 'red': Guyana (973) and Mayotte (976)

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Since the lockdown has been lifted on May 11th, restrictions have been gradually eased.

  • Cafes, bars and restaurants were able to reopen on June 2nd, but solely to provide food to go / for delivery and to serve customers on terraces (this was temporarily extended in Paris, pursuant to an administrative validation, until September 30th). Since June 15th, cafes, bars and restaurants can open for dining in, both inside and on their terraces provided that social distancing measures are implemented inside the restaurant.

  • On June 2nd, Museums and concert venues, monuments, beaches and lakes have been allowed to reopen, along with green zones, swimming pools, gyms, leisure parks and performance halls (those in the yellow zone reopened on June 22).

  • Cinemas reopened on June 22.

  • The French administrative supreme court (Conseil d’Etat) has ruled that demonstrations can take place so long as social distancing measures are respected.

  • Despite the end of the lockdown, fairs, festivals and other events with large audiences have been prohibited until further notice.

  • Schools reopened on June 2nd

  • Trips on public transportation are now permitted, but wearing a mask on public transportation is mandatory. During rush hours (from 6.30am to 9.30 am and from 4 pm to 7 pm), an employer certificate is mandatory stating that the employee’s presence at a specific time is strictly necessary.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • No – and there is in any case very few regulations that applies specifically to franchise under French law.

  • However, and although it is not specifically aimed at franchise agreements, an Order 2020-306 of 25 March 2020 imposed a moratorium on the application of any penalties, constraint or termination resulting from the failure of one party to comply with a contractual deadline during the state of health emergency from 12 March to 23 June – and in particular, any penalties incurred shall be deferred, at the end of the moratorium period, "for a period, calculated after the end of that period, equal to the time elapsed between 12 March 2020 or, if later, the date on which the obligation arose, on the one hand, and the date on which it should have been executed, on the other hand".

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Since May 11th, non-food retailers have been authorised to reopen, provided that they put in place social distancing measures (notably by requiring their clients to wear a mask, limiting the number of customers in the shop etc.) they can require their staff to wear masks as well.

  • Shopping centres of more than 440 square meters were allowed to reopen on May 31st, except in certain zones (i.e. Mayotte and Guyane).

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Cafes, bars and restaurants were able to reopen on June 2nd , but only to provide food to go or serve customers on their terraces (this was temporarily extended in Paris pursuant to an administrative validation until September 30th) and since June 15th, cafes, bars and restaurants are open for dining in, both inside and on their terrace provided that social distancing measures apply inside the restaurant.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • The government has enacted a health recommendation guide that requires delivery operators to ensure that delivery is contactless, in order to provide maximum protection for meal preparers, deliverers and customers. The guide states that delivery must be contactless: (i) A meal recovery area must be set up by the restaurant, separate from the kitchen, to ensure the recovery of the meal without contact between the person(s) responsible for preparing the meal and the person responsible for its delivery ; (ii) The deliveryman deposits the open bag and the restaurant staff places the meal directly into the bag ; (iii) When the meal is delivered, the delivery person warns the customer of his arrival (by knocking or ringing the bell); (iv) The deliveryman leaves immediately or moves a minimum distance of 2 meters from the door, before the customer opens the door.

  • The guidelines state that food delivery platforms shall remind restaurants, delivery personnel, and customers to take the necessary precautions: barrier gestures (washing your hands very regularly, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or into a handkerchief, etc.). Although the guidelines are unclear on who must provide the following necessary precautions to deliverymen, it seems that platforms have to remind the following to deliverymen: (i) while waiting in front of a restaurant, delivery personnel must ensures that the safety distance of 1 meter between them is respected, (ii) the customer must be warned upon arrival and the deliveryman must leave immediately or moves a minimum distance of 2 meters from the door after dropping off the meal and the delivery equipment must be cleaned regularly, (iii) persons with symptoms of COVID 19 must not work, (iv) delivery equipment must be regularly cleaned using disinfectant wipes or a cleaning product corresponding to the NF or EN 14476 standard.

  • Concerning restaurants – the guidelines specify that (i) barrier gestures (washing your hands very regularly, coughing or sneezing into your elbow or into a handkerchief, etc.) must be applied at all times, (ii) any staff member who is symptomatic (fever or feeling of fever, cough, breathing difficulties) should not work, (iii) bags containing meals must be properly closed and (iv) surfaces and cooking utensils must be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • Ordinance No. 2020-306 provides for an extension of the deadlines expired during the health emergency period from 12 March 2020 to 23 June 2020 and is applicable in particular to any tax matters. Time limits for tax returns (Corporate Tax, VAT, Income Tax, etc.) are not affected by the Ordinance.

  • Companies can request, without providing further justification, a 3 month deferral for the payment of their forthcoming direct taxes that are due (in principle due on 5 or 15 June and possibly for those due on 5 and 15 July but still to be determined). Only the following taxes are included within the scope of this measure: corporate tax (instalments), payroll tax, business Property Tax (CFE), business value-added local contribution (CVAE). Companies need to complete a special form and send it back to their respective local tax Centre (“SIE”). If a deferred payment is not sufficient to overcome their cash difficulties, companies can request a discount on their direct taxes. The scope of the taxes concerned is the same as for deferred payment. A discount will only be granted in case of serious difficulties that make a deferral of tax payment insufficient. These difficulties must be justified by the company.

  • It is possible for companies to obtain accelerated repayment of tax credits which should normally be refunded in the course of year 2020.

  • Companies may temporarily cease their activity or reduce employees’ working time in the period of the crisis, without the employees’ consent, while guaranteeing employees a financial compensation of 70% of their gross salary for hours not worked, which will represent more than 80% of their net salary due to favorable social security treatment. Companies which obtain the express or implicit authorization of the administrative authority will get financial assistance from the State in order to be able to pay employees.

  • From 1 July, companies will be able to decrease to working within a 40% limit and for a period of two years. The State will compensate part of the employees loss of revenue depending on the decrease of their working hours. These new measures are currently being debated and shall apply as from 1 July.

  • Companies in the hotel, catering, café, tourism, events, sports, culture and related sectors, which have suffered a very significant decline in activity, are receiving increased support from the State (fond de solidarité) until December 31st. This applies to eligible companies involved in these activities with up to 20 employees (up from the previous 10 employees) and a turnover of up to EUR 2 million.


Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • See above (last bullet point under question 7) concerning the state guaranteeing employees a financial compensation of 70% of their gross salary for hours not worked in case of reduction by an employer of its employees’ working time due to the crisis.

  • Concerning self-employed individuals, a solidarity fund to help very small businesses, self-employed, micro-entrepreneurs with a turnover of less than 1 million euros and that meet various criteria is proposed and these people can apply for this aid of up to €1,500 through the French tax website. Those people experiencing the greatest difficulties may obtain additional aid of €2,000 on a case-by-case basis.

  • For those who are not eligible for the solidarity fund aid above, an aid scheme depending on the situation of the self-employed professional is also proposed and may take the form of financial assistance or exemption from specific tax contributions.

  • Finally, in April, self-employed workers in the craft/trade sector will benefit from "compensation for loss of earnings". This exceptional aid will depend on the level of contributions of each person to the supplementary pension scheme for self-employed, up to €1,250 net of taxes and social security contributions.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • An order n° 2020-316 of 25 March 2020 allows for the postponement of the payment of commercial and professional rents through the paralysis of all the mechanisms that can be invoked by lessors to obtain the payment of rents, including guarantees. However this order applies to a very limited number of companies, i.e. those that (i) have been banned from opening to the public or have suffered a loss of turnover of at least 50% during the concerned period, (ii) have started their activity before 1 February 2020, (iii) have not ceased trading on 1 March 2020 (iv) have a workforce of less than or equal to 10 employees (iv) have a turnover of less than €1 million in the last closed financial year (for new companies that have not yet closed a financial year, the average monthly turnover must be less than €83,333 over the period between the date of creation of the company and 29 February 2020 (v) pay their their manager up to a maximum amount of 60,000 €.

  • Also, see point 3 above (second bullet point) concerning the moratorium on the application of any penalties, constraint or termination resulting from the failure of one party to comply with a contractual deadline during the period from 12 March to 23 June

Local Contacts

Alexandre Vuchot - Bird & Bird LLP

 

(Lock down restrictions will be eased on 11 May)

Germany

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • According to a decision made by the federal states and the German government on 17 June, civilians must keep a distance of 1.5 meters between other individuals in public. In addition, major events like festivals are not allowed to take place until the end of October.

  • If there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants cumulatively in a district or a city within seven days, immediate regional restrictions like a lock down must be applied.

  • Masks must be worn in shops and on public transport.

  • In some federal states, face-to-face meetings are still limited to a certain number of people. In other federal states, no restrictions apply in this respect.

  • People who enter Germany from a so-called risk area must be tested for COVID-19 and remain in quarantine until the test result is negative. In risk areas, there is an increased risk of infection with COVID-19. They are identified by the government and published in a list on the internet.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • As already mentioned, most of the lock down restrictions have already been eased. Since the numbers of infections are currently rising in Germany, it is unlikely that there will be further relaxations at the moment.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

N/A

  • There are no specific amendments to franchise laws in Germany. However, Germany does have a recent amendment to franchising related provisions. In Germany, the so-called “Law to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in civil, insolvency and criminal procedure law” (referred to as “COVID-19-Mitigation Law”) has been implemented in March which provides for a large number of amendments to provisions under civil and insolvency law (e.g. suspension of debtor’s obligation to file for insolvency, restriction of creditors’ right to apply for insolvency proceedings) that could affect the franchise relationship.

  • Force majeure clauses should also be considered. Under German law, these clauses could be applicable to the pandemic, meaning that franchise fees could be reduced or not payable at all. It is uncertain whether a German court would come to such a decision, as there have been no previous precedents under German case law.

  • Given the uncertainty of the legal framework outlined above and in the spirit of partnership and Fair-Play Franchising, some franchisee systems in Germany have taken an amicable approach, e.g. granting time-bound consent to their franchisees’ closure requests and offering financial relief to them (e.g. deferral of continuing fees payment, partial waiver of advertising/marketing payments).

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • However, customers must wear masks and keep a distance from each other.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • In some federal states, people entering a restaurant must wear a mask until they are seated. In most of the federal states, customers must fill out forms with their personal details before being allowed to order. Buffets are allowed only in some parts of Germany.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The German government has adopted aid programs for all businesses according to company size.

  • The German government has set up a 24.6 billion emergency aid program to support small and medium-sized businesses. These funds will be used to provide grants to cover operating costs from June until the end of August. In the event of a 40% decline in sales, the grants cover up to 40% of the fixed operating costs, up to 50% in the case of a 50% decline in sales and 80% in the event of a 70% decline in sales. The maximum granted to small businesses with up to five employees is 9000 euros and for enterprises with up to ten employees, 15,000 euros. For all other small or medium-sized businesses, the maximum granted is 150,000 euros. The grants do not have to be paid back.

  • In addition, the German government has established the so-called “KfW Special Program 2020”. KfW is a government-owned promotional bank. The program is available to small and medium-sized enterprises as well as large companies that have temporarily experienced financing difficulties due to the coronavirus crisis. This means that all companies that were not already experiencing difficulties on 31 December 2019 can apply for a loan. Financing can be provided for investments and working capital.

  • In addition, the KfW has implemented the so-called “KfW instant loans” for small and medium-sized enterprises subject to certain company-related conditions. The KfW grants them loans for working capital and investments up to a maximum of 25% of the annual turnover in 2019.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Employees
    The German government has expanded its short-time work scheme, which provides compensation to certain workers whose working hours have been reduced. Short-time work is defined as the temporary reduction of working hours with a corresponding reduction in pay. Compensation for short time work is paid by official employment agencies as a partial replacement for the wages that workers lose due to temporary work shortages.

  • Self-employed individuals
    As already described above (see answers to question 7), the German government has adopted COVID-19 emergency aid programs (one-off payments) to help the small businesses including self-employed persons bridge liquidity bottlenecks.
     

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • The COVID-19-Mitigation Law protects commercial tenants against termination. According to the COVID-19-Mitigation Law, the non-payment of rents due for April, May and June 2020 does not entitle the landlord to terminate the lease until 30 June 2022, provided that the non-performance is due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • The rental payment obligations themselves are not directly influenced by the law. In this respect, the COVID-19-Mitigation Law only prevents termination due to default of payment. However, in practice, some franchisees have so-called business rental contracts with the Franchisors and their rental payments are always subject to the actual sales turnover (i.e. no sales, no rent). This does not relate to any relief programs provided by the government.


Local Contacts

Jiri Jaeger - Bird & Bird LLP

 

Please note: As a general comment, since Germany is a federal country, there are local differences between each of the 16 states. We are giving you some general rules across the most federal states in Germany.

 

Hong Kong

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • Any Hubei residents, and non-Hong Kong residents who have visited the Hubei Province in the past 14 days are denied entry to Hong Kong.
  • All non-Hong Kong residents coming from overseas countries and regions by plane will be denied entry to Hong Kong; and all non-Hong Kong residents coming from the Mainland, Macao and Taiwan will be denied entry to Hong Kong if they have been to any overseas countries and regions in the past 14 days.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Due to the recent surge of new COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong, the Government has imposed more stringent measures which include, among others, the following:

    • All scheduled premises set out below are required to suspend operation:

    (a) Amusement game centres
    (b) Bathhouses
    (c) Fitness centres
    (d) Places of amusement
    (e) Places of public entertainment
    (f) Premises (commonly known as party rooms) that are maintained or intended to be maintained for hire for holding social gatherings
    (g) Beauty parlours
    (h) Establishments (commonly known as clubs or nightclubs) that are open late into the night, usually for drinking, and dancing or other entertainment
    (i) Karaoke establishments
    (j) Mahjong-tin kau premises
    (k) Massage establishments
    (l) Clubhouses (catering business therein must observe relevant direction)
    (m) Sports premises
    (n) Swimming pool

    • It is compulsory for everyone to wear a mask who is boarding or on board public transport, or who is entering or inside a public place during a specified period.

    • All schools (including tutorial schools) must suspend all on-campus activities, including face-to-face teaching activities, make-up classes and extra-curricular activities at all levels.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

N/A

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

There are currently no measures which restrict or prohibit non-food retailers to be open.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • • From 6:00 pm to 4:59 am of the subsequent day, save for specific premises, a person responsible for carrying on a catering business must cease selling or supplying food or drink for onsite consumption and close the premises or any part of the premises where customers dine-in.

    • No more than 2 persons may be seated together at one table within any catering premises.

    • The number of customers at any catering premises at any one time when consuming on premises must not exceed 50% of the seating capacity.

    • Live performances and dancing are not be allowed in any catering premises.

    • All karaoke and mahjong-tin kau activities at any catering premises must be suspended.

    • Any premises (e.g., bars or pubs) that are exclusively or mainly used for the sale of alcohol for drinking onsite must close.

    • Any part of a catering premises that is exclusively or mainly used for the sale of alcohol for consumption in that part must be closed.

    • Other requirements and restrictions on catering business premises include:
     
    • tables must be arranged to ensure there is a distance of at least 1.5 metres or some form of partition which can serve as effective buffer between tables;
    • a person must wear a mask at all times when in a catering premises, except when the person is consuming food or drink;
    • body temperature checks must be conducted before a person is allowed to enter a catering premises;
    • hand sanitiser must be provided at any catering premises.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • With various social distancing and stay-home measures in place, the food delivery market has become more popular, with increasing number of eateries including high-end restaurants registered as restaurant partners with delivery platforms such as Deliveroo and Foodpanda. Even luxury hotels have introduced their own delivery services.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Government has introduced various measures to provide relief for hard-hit sectors such as tourism, catering, construction, aviation, passenger transport sectors, and sectors which are completely or partly closed due to Government's safe-guarding measures such as fitness centres operators, amusement game centres and beauty parlour operators. These include one-off relief grants, cash subsidies, rental waivers and more.

  • To ease cash flow problems, a special 100% concessionary low-interest loan will be introduced to SMEs under a scheme known as the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme for which the Government will provide 100% guarantees. The "principal moratorium" will also be extended from 6 months to 1 year, and the Government will increase its guarantee commitment from HKD$20 billion to HKD$50 billion.

  • Other measures include reducing income tax by 100% in Year of Assessment 2019-20 (subject to a ceiling of HKD$20,000), waiving business registration fees in 2020-2021, waiving registration fees for annual returns charged by the Companies Registry for 2 years, providing electricity charges subsidies and waiving water and sewage charges etc.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The Government has launched an "Employment Support Scheme" (ESS) which provides wage subsidies to eligible employers who undertake not to make workers redundant during the subsidy period, and to spend all the wage subsidies on paying wages for their employees. Processing of applications has generally been completed and the first tranche of subsidies has been disbursed. Applications for the second tranche of wage subsidiaries will be accepted starting from 31 August until 13 September 2020.

  • On job creation, the Government has earmarked $6 billion to create around 30 000 time-limited jobs in the public and private sectors in the coming two years for people of different skills and academic qualifications.

  • The Government has proposed measures to encourage staff in various professions to learn new skills and to help enterprises apply technology e.g. providing matching grants for training programmes for staff in public and private sectors, providing training subsidies for construction sector, providing funds to assist some SME law firms/ barristers’ chambers to procure / upgrade their information technology system and arrange relevant LAWTECH training for their staff to support the development of remote hearings etc.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • The Government will provide a 75% rent concession to eligible tenants of government premises and eligible holders in respect of tenancies on government land from April to September 2020. Businesses which have completely ceased operation will receive a full rent waiver.
  • The Government has urged public bodies such as the Housing Authority, the Housing Society, the Urban Renewal Authority and the Airport Authority to provide their commercial tenants with rental concessions and has appealed to landlords in the private sector to reduce rent.

  • The Government will provide 75% rent or fee concessions in respect of eligible short-term tenancies and waivers administered by the Lands Department from April to September 2020.

  • The Government has proposed to expand the scope of the above rent concessions and waiver fee concessions to more businesses/organisations not covered by previous rounds of helping measures, such as depots, driving schools, regulators’ offices for public transport operators and advertising signboards. Short-term tenancies and waiver holders which are ordered to close or have chosen to close due to Government’s closure orders or other restrictions for safeguarding public health may apply for full concession.


Local Contacts

Hank Leung - Bird & Bird LLP

Hungary

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • On 11 March 2020, under the Government Decree No. 40/2020. (III. 11.), the Hungarian Government declared “a state of emergency” in the territory of Hungary. This meant that during such period (with parliamentary approval) the Government was to entitled to take any measures necessary in order to eliminate the consequences of COVID-19 . There were certain limitations however, such as in respect of fundamental rights.

  • On 18 June 2020, the Hungarian Government withdrew the “state of emergency” and most of the restrictions were lifted. Simultaneously, with the withdrawal of the “state of emergency”, the Hungarian government introduced “epidemiological preparedness”. It is still mandatory to wear protective masks in shops and on public transport, and social distancing must be enforced. It is not permitted to organise social events with more than 500 participants where music is played and people can dance. Note that due to the restriction on dancing, sports events (in particular football matches) are allowed even if the number of spectators exceed 500.

  • Since 15 July 2020, new rules have been implemented regarding travelling to Hungary. Foreign countries have been labelled with one of three colours: green, yellow and red. There are no restrictions on arrivals from green countries. Countries with a yellow code are considered medium risk, which means that travellers from such countries must self-quarantine for 14 days unless they can show two negative PCR tests (they can leave quarantine after the first negative test but are obliged to do the second test). High risk countries are labelled with a red code, which means that only Hungarian citizens are allowed to return from such countries and they must also self-quarantine for 14 days unless they can show two negative PCR tests (they cannot leave the quarantine before obtaining the second negative test). Special rules apply for duly evidenced business travels, transportation and professional athletes.


Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • The Hungarian Government eased restrictions in phases.

  • The first phase started on 4 May 2020, when strict restrictions remained in force in the most infected areas, in particular the capital city, Budapest and its surrounding area. Elsewhere, shops could reopen without time limitations. Terraces and outdoor seating areas of restaurants and cafes could reopen, and people could visit outdoor beaches.

  • The second phase started on 18 May 2020, when the Government eased the restrictions in the most infected areas, Budapest and its surrounding areas, allowing shops to reopen without time limitations. Terraces and outdoor seating areas of restaurants and cafes could reopen, and people from the most infected areas could also visit outdoor beaches.

  • On 18 June 2020, the Hungarian Government withdrew the “state of emergency” and most of the restrictions except from wearing protective masks at all times when entering shops and public transport as well as keep social distancing.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No. 

  • The Hungarian Government has not implemented franchise-specific measures, nevertheless franchises may benefit from certain measures introduced by the Government.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Starting from 18 June 2020, all non-food retailers are permitted to be open without time restriction, however people are obliged to wear protective masks when entering shops.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Starting from 18 June 2020, restaurants, bars and coffee shops are fully permitted to be open for dining in. However, it is compulsory for the staff to wear masks in the indoor areas. It is not permitted to organise social events with more than 500 participants where music is played and people can dance.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Restaurants, bars and coffee shops are fully permitted to operate take-away and delivery.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Government has imposed a moratorium on all loan repayments for individuals and companies until the end of 2020. The interest rate on all new consumer loans is capped at the Central Bank’s base rate plus 5 percent maximum.
  • Administrative obligations on companies have been introduced, such as amendments to decision-making rules of companies to ensure an uninterrupted operation during COVID-19 and a prolonged deadline for filing financial statements for closing the previous financial year until 30 September 2020. Corporate tax and local taxes are also due on 30 September 2020.

  • Preferential loans are available to companies for investments. The Hungarian Export-Import Bank introduced COVID-19 Compensation Programs, including working capital loans where the interest rate is 0.1 percent for small businesses that apply for it within a year.

  • One of the Government’s main focuses is preserving jobs. Among other measures, the Government introduced “Kurzarbeit”, a legal framework for reduced working time and a related State subsidy scheme. Under this scheme, the Hungarian State undertakes to subsidise 70% of employees’ unpaid salary (subject to certain conditions) for 3 months provided the employer maintains the subsidised employee for a certain period. The application can be filed with the relevant authority from 31 August 2020 until 3 months' time, ending on 31 December 2020 at the latest.

  • HUF 150 million has been provided to subsidise the tourism sector for the restoration and construction of hotels, tour guides and tourist information centres mainly in the countryside.


Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The Government has introduced several measures and reliefs for employees and self-employed individuals. These include, in particular, a moratorium on all loan repayments for individuals and companies until the end of 2020. The interest rate on all new consumer loan interest rates is capped at a maximum of the Central Bank’s base rate plus 5 percent.

  • Not only employers, but also employees have been provided with a reduction in their required tax contributions, including a moratorium on pension contributions. Health insurance premiums are also capped.


Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • It is up to the parties to reduce or release the rental fee through negotiation based on their contract and general rules of the Civil Code.

  • The lease term of state owned premises has been extended until the 90th day after the end of the state of emergency.

 

Local Contacts

Bálint Halász - Bird & Bird LLP

India

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.*

Have local franchise laws been amended?

N/A**

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

No.***

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

No.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

No.****

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

No.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No.

Local Contacts

Nipun Gupta - Bird & Bird LLP

 

*Partially
**Numerous laws that could impact on franchising arrangements have been modified
***In the most recent relaxation, in a non-hotspot area standalone establishments of non-essential goods are not permitted to open.
****Some measures, but not financial

Indonesia

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • Indonesia is currently implementing a "Large-Scale Social Limitation" period.

  •  However, many provinces and cities in Indonesia are currently implementing the “transitional phase” of the large scale social limitation period, wherein restrictions have been eased.


Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

As above.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • Not during this period. The latest amendment to the current franchise legislation was the issuance of the Ministry of Trade Regulation No. 71 of 2019 on Franchise which supersede the previous Ministry of Trade Regulation No. 53/M-DAG/PER/8/2012

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • During the “transitional phase,” many major cities in Indonesia have allowed non-food retailers, including shopping malls, to be open. However, retailers and shopping malls have to implement certain health protocols.

  • In June 2020, the Ministry of Health issued a decree (No.HK.01.07/MENKES/382/2020) on health protocols in public places. As such, this decree applies to public places, including hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, fitness centres, convention halls, tourist destinations and public transportation. According to this decree, 1-meter social distancing rules must be implemented. Temperature checks and the use of face masks are also mandatory for both employees and guests.

  • Depending on the Regional Regulations, most of the provinces and cities in Indonesia require retail outlets to reduce occupancy to 50% of maximum capacity. There must also be a reduction on operational hours.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • During the “transitional phase,” restaurants/cafés/bars are allowed to open for dining in services at 50% capacity (this may also depend on Regional Regulations) and follow strict health protocols set out by the Government.

  • In July 2020, the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy released health & safety guidelines for the prevention and control of COVID-19 in restaurants. The guidelines include the following requirements: (i) restaurants have to provide hand sanitising facilities for customers before they enter the restaurant, (ii) customers must be seated at an appropriate distance, and (iii) the premises must be sanitised regularly.


Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Take away and delivery services can remain operational.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Indonesian Government has taken several measures in accelerating the National Economic Recovery (PEN) program. This is by providing stimulus for businesses such as tax incentives for certain industries, credit stimulus policies for Indonesian banks that relax credit scoring requirements and special treatment for loan restructuring, and the subsidies to electricity bills to households and businesses. Further, the Indonesian Government will allocate IDR 366.5 trillion (approx. USD 24 billion) in the 2021 state budget following the various stimulus that has been launched in response to the pandemic.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The Indonesian Government is set to launch a financial stimulus scheme for employees that earn less than IDR 5,000,000 (approx. USD 340) per month. The employees will be eligible for monthly payments of IDR 600,000 (approx. USD 40) for a period of 4 months.

  • In August 2020, the Minister of Manpower issued the Minister of Manpower Regulation No. 14 of 2020 in respect of Government assistance regarding salary/wage subsidies for workers affected by COVID-19. The regulation acts as a set of guidelines which detail the requirements for eligible employees who can receive the funds.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No.

Many commercial tenants have not received any incentive or relief for any closures which occurred during the 'large scale social limitation' period.

Local Contacts

Risti Wulansari - K&K Advocates

 

Ireland

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

Apart from a current lockdown on movements of people in the three counties of Laois, Kildare and Offaly (due to some large clusters of the virus in those locations) , there is otherwise no general restriction on the movement of people in Ireland. There are however a significant number of restrictions in place regarding how people may circulate and interact with others, e.g. specific limits on the numbers of people who may congregate indoors and outdoors and for certain sectors such as hospitality and sport. All workers continue to be encouraged to work from home if possible.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

Full lockdown restrictions have been eased and Ireland is currently in phase 3 of the country's previously published roadmap for reopening the economy. Phase 4 however has been pushed back on numerous occasions with further restrictions being introduced until at least 13 September.

The following are some of the main restrictions in force until at least 13 September:

  • Limit of 6 visitors to one household or for indoor gatherings in general

  • Outdoor gatherings limited to 15 people

  • All sporting activities to be behind closed doors

  • All restaurant, cafes and pubs which serve food must be closed at 11:30pm, pubs which do not serve food remain closed.

  • Public transport to be avoided if possible

  • All non-essential International travel is to be avoided and those returning are required to self-isolate for a period of 14 days (however a green list of countries has been developed where isolation is not required, this list is updated and changed frequently)

  • The wearing of face masks is mandatory on public transport, in retail outlets and certain other indoor settings.

A new, long-term roadmap for opening the economy is being developed by the government and due to be published in the coming weeks which should provide more clarity on how matters will proceed.


Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • No. Ireland does not have a specific "Franchise Law".

  • Franchises are subject to the same corporate and commercial laws as other businesses in Ireland.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Since the end of June, all retail services and commercial activities can open so long as they adhere to the government published return to work protocols and public health guidance such as social distancing etc.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes but on a restricted basis.

The following may reopen to customers, subject to social distancing and other safeguarding measures:

  • cafés and restaurants providing on premises food and beverages

  • pubs and hotel bars operating as restaurants

  • All cafes, restaurants and pubs must be closed by 11:30 pm.

  • There is a limit of 6 people per table.

  • Contact details of at least one person in each party are to be obtained in order to facilitate contact tracing if subsequently necessary.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • Microenterprises can access COVID-19 Business Loans of up to €50,000. These loans include 6 months interest free and a repayment moratorium during that time.
  • A €450 million COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme is available for eligible businesses.
  • Manufacturing and international trade services businesses who are vulnerable but viable can avail of the Sustaining Enterprise Fund of up to €180 million. There is also a similar fund available for small enterprises for short term working capital injections of up to €50,000.
  • The Restart Grant is available and will give direct grant aid to micro and small businesses to assist them with the costs associated with re-opening and re-employing workers following COVID-19 closures.
  • The Trading Online Voucher is a grant designed to assist small business to help them to set up trading online.

  • The COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme will be available to support retail companies to enhance their digital capability. 

  • Future growth loan scheme – a fund of €500m is available to eligible enterprises for longer term loans of value from €100,000 to €3m

  • Credit guarantee scheme – a €2billion scheme will provide an 80% guarantee on lending to SMEs until the end of 2020, it can be used for a range of lending products between €10,000 and €1m

  • Business continuity voucher – a voucher up to €2,500 is available for business who employ up to 50 people in order to assist them in paying 3rd party consultancy costs associated with developing their long term strategies.

  • Business financial planning grant – a grant of up to €5,000 is available to companies to develop a Business Sustainment Plan

Full details and information on the supports can be found here

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Employees of businesses that need to reduce hours or days worked can avail of the Short-time Work Support.
  • Enhanced Illness Benefit Payment is available for workers who have been advised to self-isolate or who are diagnosed with Covid-19 and cannot work as a result. 

  • Self-employed individuals can avail of the Temporary Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or may be eligible to claim Jobseeker's Allowance in certain circumstances.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Commercial rates have been waived until 27 September.

Local Contacts

Damian Maloney - Beauchamps

 

Italy

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • Most activities have restarted and movement between the Italian Regions is permitted.

  • Certain safety measures, including social distancing and face masks inside public places shall continue.

  • The Italian Regions can apply stricter rules in relation to certain matters (for example, due to the holiday season, some of the most visited Italian cities and regions have requested that marks are worn all the time, even outdoors).

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Most activities have restarted and movement between the Italian Regions is permitted.

  • Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces issued guidelines for the re-opening of economic, manufacturing and recreational activities.

  • However, starting from 14 August 2020 (due to the increase of cases), the Ministry of Health suspended indoor and outdoor dancing in clubs and public areas and introduced an obligation to wear masks outdoors from 6pm to 6am in all places where there is a risk of gatherings.

  • Starting from August 14, 2020, people coming to Italy from Croatia, Greece, Malta and Spain are required to present a test with a negative result

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • Italian franchise law (Law no. 129/2004) and Ministerial Decree no. 204/2005 have not been amended

  •  Law Decree no. 18/2020 (“Cure Italy Decree"), converted into Law no. 27/2020, Law Decree no. 23/2020 (“Liquidity Decree") and Law Decree no. 34/2020 ("Relaunch Decree") converted into Law no. 77/2020, and Law Decree no. 104/2020 provide for measures supporting businesses, including franchisors and franchisees

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Retailers have to ensure social distancing of at least 1 meter and staggered entry to the stores and avoid that customers stay into the stores more than necessary

  • Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces guidelines provide for certain additional measures to be adopted by retailers

  • Measures include physical distancing of at least 1 meter between customers and the mandatory use of face masks by customers

  •  Electronic payments have to be preferred and safety measures at the cash desks, including physical barriers or face masks, have to be adopted

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • The Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces guidelines provide for certain specific measures to be adopted by restaurants, cafes and bars.

  • Measures for dining in include social distancing of at least 1 meter between customers, table placement that ensures a 1 meter distance between customers and physical barriers between tables. There is a prohibition on buffet style services.

  • Restaurants are encouraged to request bookings for dining in and to keep customer data for 14 days and not to allow more customers than seats available in restaurant.


Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Take-away and delivery services are allowed

  • Safety measures, including social distancing of at least 1 meter and precautions for packaging and delivery, must be adopted


Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Italian government adopted Law Decree no. 18/2020 (“Cure Italy Decree"), Law Decree no. 23/2020 (“Liquidity Decree") and Law Decree no. 34/2020 ("Relaunch Decree") converted into Law no. 77/2020, and Law Decree no. 104/2020 allocating a total amount of €930 billion to support businesses, workers, families, healthcare, schools, universities.

  • Non-refundable relief for businesses with a turnover of up to €5 million (Law Decree no. 104/2020 introduced a specific non-refundable relief for certain businesses in the food sector that suffered a decrease in turnover from March to June 2020)

  • Tax incentives of 20% for recapitalization, tax credit of 50% of capital losses and an SME Fund for subscribing bonds or debt securities for businesses with a turnover of between €5 and €50 million


Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Law Decree no. 18/2020 (“Cure Italy Decree"), converted into Law no. 27/2020, and Law Decree no. 34/2020 ("Relaunch Decree") converted into Law no. 77/2020, and Law Decree no. 104/2020 provide for economic and financial measures to support families, workers and businesses

  • Under certain conditions, allowances are granted to self-employed individuals

  •  Enhancement of the Wage Guarantee Fund 

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • Tax credit equal to 60% of the amount of real estate rental expenses is granted under certain conditions
  • Tax credit equal to 30% for business branch leases is granted under certain conditions 

Local Contacts

Claudia Ricciardi - Bird & Bird LLP

Laos

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • Lockdown has been extended until 31July 2020.

  • International flights have remained banned.

  • Terrestrial checkpoints are closed

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Entry to/exit from the country for employees and diplomats is possible with authorisation from the National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • There is no specific law on local franchises. Other laws/regulations containing provisions related to local franchises have not been amended.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Businesses have resumed normal operations except certain businesses in the entertainment industry (karaoke, arcades, etc.).

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Bank of Lao PDR issued guidelines to provide relief to debtors who have been affected by the current crisis. The regulation does not mandate commercial banks to provide this relief. Accordingly, commercial banks are strongly encouraged to:

    • Revise the debt structures of the affected debtors by agreeing on new installments for principal and interest, and revisions on interest rates so that it is reflects the actual conditions of the debtors. The debtors should be granted a grace period of at least one year to pay the principal and interest.

    • Provide new loans to debtors and those affected by the pandemic in order to help them maintain their business operations.

  • The government is exempting businesses from customs duties, tax, and related official fees on medical devices and other products for preventive measures against COVID-19 (e.g., masks, sanitizers, medical equipment, and other necessary items) to businesses.

  • The government postponed tax obligations, for the period from April to June 2020, for eligible business operators in the tourism industry.

  • The Bank of Lao PDR has provided credit to commercial banks to provide credit to micro-enterprises and SMEs at a low-interest rate.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

No.

  • There are no specific relief for commercial tenants other than for those described above on government support for businesses.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

N/A

Local Contacts

Thomas Joseph Treutler - Tilleke & Gibbins

Malaysia

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • On 16 March 2020, the Malaysian government imposed a two-week movement control order (“MCO”) starting from 18 March 2020. The MCO has been subsequently extended for a third time into the fourth phase from 29 April until 12 May 2020.

  • On 1 May 2020, the government announced a relaxation of the MCO to a conditional movement control order (“CMCO”) to be implemented in the fifth phase from 3 May 2020 until 12 May 2020. The CMCO has been extended by another 4 weeks into the sixth phase until 9 June 2020.

  • The MCO sets out six major restrictions as follows:-

o   prohibition of mass movements and gathering nationwide, including religious activities, sports, social and cultural events and closure of all houses of worship and business premises, except for supermarkets, public markets, grocery stores and convenience stores selling everyday necessities;

o   restriction on overseas travel for Malaysians and mandatory health checks and self-quarantine of 14 days for returning Malaysians;

o   restriction on entry for foreign visitors and tourists;

o   closure of all kindergartens, public and private schools;

o   closure of all public and private institutions of higher learning; and

o   closure of all government and private premises except for essential services.

  •  The MCO prohibits all land travel except for purchasing, supplying or delivering food, daily necessities, medicine or dietary supplements, seeking healthcare or medical services, performing official duties or performing duties in relation to essential services. Interstate-travel requires a police permit.

  • Throughout the second and third phase of the MCO, any travelling for purchasing, supplying or delivering food, daily necessities, medicine or dietary supplements or seeking healthcare or medical services is restricted to 10km radius from the place of residence and individual travelling, except that in the latter case one accompaniment is allowed.

  • From 27 March 2020, specific locations as follows where large clusters were detected, were subjected to a stricter enhanced movement control order (“EMCO”) for 14 days in order for the government to conduct a thorough Covid-19 test on all residents and to curb the spread of the virus from these areas:-
  •  The EMCO imposes six major restrictions as follows:-
  1. restriction on all residents and visitors to leave the area;
  2. restriction on non-residents and visitors to enter the area;
  3. closure of all businesses within the area;
  4. provision of basic food supplies to the residents by the Social Welfare Department;
  5. establishment of a medical base within the area; and closure of all roads to the area.
  • On 7 June 2020, the government announced that the CMCO will end as scheduled on 9 June 2020 and will be replaced with the Recovery Movement Control Order (“RMCO”) starting from 10 June 2020 until 31 August 2020 (with further relaxations incoming).

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • In order to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (“MITI”) had on 10 and 16 April 2020 announced the easing of restrictions on several economic sectors, allowing them to resume operations in stages during the third phase of the MCO subject to application. These sectors include the following:

    • automotive industry;
    • machinery and equipment;
    • aerospace industry;
    • construction projects and services related to construction works;
    • science, professional and technical services including research and development;
    • social health services including registered traditional and complementary medicine practitioners;
    • hardware shops, electrical and electronics shops in the wholesale and retail segments; and
    • laundry services.
  • The approval to operate is subject to compliance with the standard operating procedures that have been established for the respective sectors, healthcare guidelines prescribed by the Ministry of Health (“MOH”) and other related enforcement agencies and strict movement control of employees..

  • In the fourth phase of the MCO, MITI allows economic sectors which had been permitted to operate at limited capacity during the first three phases of the MCO, to carry on businesses at full capacity from 29 April 2020 subject to the established standard operating procedure in their respective sectors and the healthcare guidelines.

  • Further, the government slightly relaxed the MCO under the fourth phase by allowing travelling for food, daily necessities, medicine or dietary supplements or healthcare or medical services beyond the 10km radius limit besides permitting two people from a family to go out and run errands for food, daily necessities, medicine or dietary supplements.

  • On 1 May 2020, the government announced the CMCO to be implemented in the fifth phase from 4 May 2020 until 12 May 2020, which has been extended into the sixth phase until 9 June 2020, to ease certain restrictions with the objective of reopening the economy in a controlled manner.

  • The CMCO allows majority of economic sectors and businesses activities to resume operations subject to conditions and standard operating procedures, except those that involve mass gatherings and physical contact where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as entertainment centres, barber shops, beauty salons, etc. as specified in the list of prohibited activities which will be updated from time to time. Each private vehicle is allowed to carry a maximum of four family members while public transports are only permitted to carry half of their normal capacity. The restriction on inter-state travel has been relaxed by allowing those who need to make trips to and from work and those who have been stranded due to the MCO to return home.

  • Whilst public gathering and interstate travelling for non-work purposes remains prohibited, following the extension of the CMCO, the government now allows gathering and visits amongst neighbours and close family members within the same state in conjunction with Hari Raya Puasa, Pesta Kaamatan and Gawai Dayak Day up to a maximum of 20 people per day on the first day of each festival subject to the size of a house besides permitting spouses living in separate states to travel to each other’s residence.

  • On 7 June 2020, the government announced that the RMCO will be implemented from 10 June 2020 until 31 August 2020, replacing the CMCO which was scheduled to end on 9 June 2020. Most social, education, religious and business activities have been allowed to resume/reopen provided that they comply with standard operating procedures. These include the following:-

    • interstate travel is permitted except for areas placed under the EMCO;

    • more businesses are allowed to reopen in stages if they respect standard operating procedures including barber shops, hair salons, beauty parlours, nail salons, open markets, morning markets, night markets and bazaars starting 15 June 2020. However, pubs, nightclubs, entertainment centres and karaoke centres remain prohibited;

    • commercial activities involving sales transactions and marketing outside the business premises are permitted;

    • museum visits, indoor busking, self-service laundry, recreational fishing activities including commercial fishing ponds, and filming are permitted;

    • sports and recreational activities are allowed subject to standard operating procedures. These include training activities for sports teams and non-contact sports such as bowling, badminton, archery and shooting, as well as outdoor group activities such as group cycling and motorcycle convoys. However, sports events and contact sports remain prohibited;

    • gyms, indoor sports venues and snooker centres are allowed to resume operations from 15 June 2020; and

    • schools are set to reopen in stages from 24 June 2020, starting with students facing public examinations and equivalent international school examinations this year.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

Yes.

  • The government introduced amendments to the Franchise Act 1998 (“FA”) via the Franchise (Amendment) Act 2020 (“2020 Act”) to ensure conformity with the current developments of the franchise business in Malaysia. It has been published in the Gazette on 6 March 2020 after receiving its Royal Assent on 20 February 2020 but has yet to come into force.

  • One of the major changes under the 2020 Act is the new requirement for a foreign franchisor to register its franchise separately under Section 6 of the FA which presently only applies to a local franchisor, after obtaining the Registrar’s approval to sell its franchise in Malaysia or to a Malaysian citizen under Section 54 of the FA. This requirement was introduced by extending the scope of application of Section 6 of the FA to foreign franchisors. To enable the smooth transition to the new FA, the 2020 Act further allows all foreign franchisors who had previously obtained the Registrar’s approval under Section 54 of the FA, to be automatically registered under Section 6 of the FA. We anticipate that the Registrar would adopt similar practice in dealing with pending or future foreign franchise applications in view that the level of information and documents required for an application under Section 6 is almost identical to Section 54.

  • The introduction of the double registration requirement means that foreign franchisors are now bound by the post-registration obligations under the FA which presently only apply to local franchisors, namely the pre-contractual disclosure of the franchise agreement and supporting documents which have been approved by the Registrar including the amendments thereto (Section 15 of the FA), the submission of an annual report within 6 months from the end of financial year of the franchise business (Section 16 of the FA) and the submission of a financial statement of a promotion fund which has been endorsed by a registered public accountant within 30 days after the conclusion of the last financial term (Section 22 of the FA). This amendment serves as a wake-up call for foreign franchisors to take steps to comply with the post-registration obligations.

  • The 2020 Act imposes a limited period of effectiveness to be determined by the Registrar (“period”), for franchise registration which presently has no limit in time unless cancelled by the Registrar or terminated by the contracting parties. Franchisors are required to renew their franchise registrations for a further period within 30 days from the expiry date subject to payment of renewal fees and other terms and conditions imposed by the Registrar which may include compliance with the post-registration obligations, and display a certificate of registration at the business premises.

  • The 2020 Act requires the terms of extension to be included in a franchise agreement. It follows that franchisors are required to provide separate a separate extension term which is usually shorter than a renewal term, for franchisees to recoup on their investments. However, this amendment would unlikely affect franchises which had been registered prior to the 2020 Act as it has always been the Registrar’s practice to require terms of extension to be provided in a franchise agreement.

  • The 2020 Act removes Section 18(3) of the FA which renders a franchise agreement that does not comply with the prescribed requirements null and void. Nevertheless, non-compliance with the requirements of a franchise agreement remains an offence under the FA.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Retailers of essential daily needs are permitted to be open throughout the MCO. These include the retail operations selling daily necessities by anchor tenants in shopping malls, grocery stores or convenience stores within a specialty store and supermarket section which sells daily necessities within a departmental store.

  • Retailers in the pharmaceutical and clinical industry are also permitted to remain operational throughout the MCO.

  • In order to mitigate the economic impact of Covid-19, the MITI slightly relaxed the MCO by allowing retailers of hardware, electrical and electronic to operate during the third phase of the MCO. The approval to operate is subject to compliance with the standard operating procedures that have been established for that sector, healthcare guidelines prescribed by the MOH and other related enforcement agencies and strict movement control of employees.

  • Following the CMCO, the majority of economic sectors and businesses activities are permitted to resume operations beginning 4 May 2020 subject to conditions and standard operating procedures, except those that involve mass gatherings and physical contact where social distancing is difficult to maintain, such as entertainment centres, barber shops, beauty salons, etc. as specified in the list of prohibited activities which will be updated from time to time.

  • Under the RMCO, most social, education, religious and business activities have been allowed to resume operations beginning on 10 June 2020, subject to compliance with standard operating procedures (except those specified in the list of prohibited activities which will be updated from time to time).

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants/cafes/bars were not permitted to be open for dine-in or eat-in before the CMCO was announced.

  • Following the CMCO, eateries such as restaurants, cafes, food courts, hawker centres, food stalls and kiosk can resume operations beginning 4 May 2020 subject to conditions and standard operating procedures which include the following:-

    o business hours are to be between 7am and 10pm;
    o dining tables must be arranged with two metres distance between each table;
    o ensuring one-meter distances between customers when making purchases;
    o putting up a notice with the number of customers allowed each day and for each table with a maximum of 4 people per table; and
    o taking temperatures of employees and customers and recording their names and contact numbers.

  • Under the RMCO, restaurants and eateries can operate until midnight. There is no longer a limit on the number of people who can sit at one table but social distancing must be observed.

  • However, pubs, bars and night clubs which operate under an entertainment licence, are to remain closed.


Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Restaurants/cafes/bars are allowed to operate take-away, delivery and drive-thru.

  • Eateries and food delivery services were only permitted to operate from 8am to 8pm starting from 1 April 2020 before the CMCO was announced.

  • Following the CMCO, they can operate take-away and delivery from 7am to 10pm.

  • Under the RMCO, eateries and food delivery services can operate until midnight.

  • However, pubs, bars and night clubs which operate an entertainment licence, are to remain closed.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • On 27 March 2020, the government announced the PRIHATIN Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package (“PRIHATIN Package”) valued at RM250 billion. Some of the main measures to assist businesses are as follows:-
    • an automatic 6-month deferment or suspension on conventional loans or Islamic financing payment obligations (except credit card) for eligible small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”) beginning 1 April 2020 while corporate borrowers/customers may make a request for a moratorium on loan or financing payment with their respective banks;
    • various initiatives and financing facilities for SMEs and micro-entrepreneurs, including the following:-
      - RM5 billion Special Relief Facility for SMEs to finance working capital;
      - All Economic Sector Facility fund of RM6.8 billion to enhance access to financing for SMEs;
      - RM700 million Micro Credit Scheme for micro-entrepreneurs;
      - the BizMula-i and BizWanita-i schemes for SMEs operating less than 4 years to finance up to RM300,000;
      - RM5 billion guarantees with a guarantee up to 80% of the total financing for SMEs that face difficulties in obtaining loans;
      - RM300 million Automation and Digitalisation Facility as incentives for SMEs to automate processes and digitalise operations to increase productivity and efficiency;

    • RM50 million guarantee scheme with a guarantee of up to 8-% of the loan amount for financing working capital requirements;

    • RM5.9 billion Wage Subsidy Programme to subsidise employers who are experiencing more than 50% decrease in their income since 1 January 2020, RM600 per month for 3 months for each employee earning less than RM4,000;

    • a deferment of monthly income tax instalment payments for all SMEs for 3 months beginning 1 April 2020, with other affected sectors allowed to revise the amount of income tax imposed in the third, sixth and ninth instalments during the basic accounting period.

    • an exemption of 6% service tax for hotels for 6 months beginning March 2020;

    • a tiered-discount on electricity bills for 6 months beginning April 2020 with rates ranging between 15% and 50% according to electricity usage; and

    • free internet services with a value of RM600 million to all customers from 1 April 2020 until the end of the MCO.


  • On 6 April 2020, the government further announced the Additional PRIHATIN Economic Stimulus Package (“Additional PRIHATIN Package”) worth RM10 billion. Some of the additional measures to assist SMEs are as follows:-

    • an enhancement of the Wage Subsidy Programme by additional RM7.9 billion for the 3-month wage subsidy to be tiered between RM600 and RM1,200 per month according to the size of the company;

    • RM2.1 billion Special PRIHATIN Grant for eligible micro enterprises;

    • abolition of 2% interest rate for the Micro Credit Scheme;

    • an additional tax deduction equal to the rental discount for landlords of private business premises who give rental discounts to SMEs;
  • On 5 June 2020, the government announced the PENJANA Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan (“PENJANA Plan”) worth RM35 billion with RM10 billion direct cash injection, aimed at alleviating the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the measures to assist SMEs are as follows:-

    • an expansion of the ongoing Wage Subsidy Programme;

    • RM1.5 billion in hiring and training incentives to encourage companies to recruit unemployed individuals;

    • RM75 billion for facilitating policies to support the growth of the gig economy and the welfare of gig economy workers;

    • a tax deduction for employers who implement flexible work arrangements;

    • co-funding a programme with MDEC and e-commerce platforms to provide on-boarding training, seller subsidy and sales support for micro enterprises and SMEs to encourage adoption of e-commerce;

    • RM700 million grants and loans for SMEs that require help digitalising their operations;

    • tax incentives for local SMEs and entrepreneurs;

    • various incentives to attract foreign companies to relocate their business into Malaysia; and

    • tax incentives to support tourism sector.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The government introduced the following measures to assist employees / self-employed individuals:-

    • a reduction of the minimum EPF contribution by employees from 11% to 7% beginning 1 April until 31 December 2020;

    • a payment of RM200 to all Bantuan Sara Hidup recipients scheduled for May 2020 to be brought forward to March 2020 with an additional RM100 to be paid in May 2020;

    • a one-off cash assistance of RM600 each to taxi drivers, tourist bus drivers, tourist guides and registered trishaw drivers;

    • a monthly cash assistance of RM600 under the Employee Retention Program for a maximum of 6 months for employees earning less than RM4,000 who are required to go on unpaid leave from 1 March 2020.

  • Additional measures were further introduced under the PRIHATIN Package which include the following:-

    • a 3-month suspension on premiums for insurance or family takaful policies for contributors whose source of income is affected by Covid-19;

    • RM10 billion Bantuan Prihatin Nasional being a one-off cash assistance to be tiered between RM500 and RM 1,600 according to the monthly income or monthly household income of the individual;

    • a one-off cash assistance of RM500 to e-hailing drivers;

    • an automatic 6-month deferment or suspension in conventional loans or Islamic financing payment obligations (except credit card) for individuals beginning 1 April 2020;

    • free internet services with a value of RM600 million to all customers from 1 April 2020 until the end of the MCO.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • SME retailers who are operating on premises owned by government-linked companies are given a waiver or discounts on their rental.

  • The government also encouraged owners of private premises to provide the same convenience by offering rental discounts or waiver to SME tenants during the MCO and three months thereafter with the benefit of additional tax deductions equal to the amount of the rent deduction for the months of April to June 2020. The tax incentive has been extended to 30 September 2020 under the PENJANA Plan.

Local Contacts

Lee Lin Li & Chong Kah Yee - Tay & Partners

Mexico

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • Depending on the state of the Mexican Republic, different measures are being taken towards lockdown, which depend on the 'category' (colour) granted to each state.

  • The Government has developed a code: red, orange, yellow and green:

    • Red: only essential activities can take place,
    • Orange: essential and certain non-essential activities can take place, but companies have to comply with certain measures and restrictions,
    • Yellow: many activities can take place but up to a certain capacity and complying with the measures provided by government, and
    • Green: all activities can take place.

  • Currently, the code varies between red and orange in different regions of Mexico. As of 21 August 2020, only one state (from 32) has reached yellow.
     

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • The entire country mostly remains in lockdown (red/orange colour), but depending on the state (and the colour granted under the code), there are different measures being implemented such as:

    • certain activities considered as non-essential can start operations
    • restaurants can open but with restrictions, mainly regarding the percentage of people that are allowed to attend (between 30% and 40% of capacity)
    • cinemas and theatres can open, as well as public pools and fitness centres (but also with restrictions on their capacity), among others.

  • Each state is issuing specific rules that companies and individuals must comply with in order to operate.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

Yes.

  • On 1 July 2020, the federal government published in the Official Gazette of the Federation a new Federal Law for the Protection of Industrial Property (the "New IP Law"), which repeals the Industrial Property Law. The New IP Law will become effective 90 business days after its publication in the Official Gazette (5 November 2020)

  • It has not been enacted because of the pandemic, it is a consequence of the compromises made by the Mexican government with the governments of the United States and Canada to harmonize certain pieces of legislation with the United States, Mexico and Canada Commercial Agreement named USMCA (which substitutes NAFTA), and which entered into in effect also on 1 July.

  • In principle, the New IP Law does not modify those provisions applicable to franchising at first glance, although there may be some modifications following review.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Depending on the state of Mexico, certain retailers may open (for example, in Jalisco, Nuevo León and Mexico City, shopping malls may be re-opened up to 25%-30% of their capacity).

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • This depends on the state of the Mexican Republic. In some states, it is still forbidden whilst in other states, restaurants can be opened up to a certain capacity and subject to other restrictions in terms of social distancing and sanitisation measures.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Restaurants, cafes and bars are allowed to have a take-away and delivery service

Is the government providing support to businesses?

No.


Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

No.


Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • Mexican law establishes that when a force majeure event occurs, the breaching party may claim that the agreed obligations in a contract cannot be performed. The foregoing means that the breaching party may have the right to request the affected party to modify the obligations set forth in the relevant agreement in order to be able to comply with the agreement.

  • Also, tenants may request relief from their landlord regarding payment of rent or even request early termination of such lease, depending on where the leased property is located, since leases are governed by local Civil Code applicable in each state of the Mexican Republic.

  • As of July 2020, certain commercial establishments were re-opened up to a certain capacity. Then, it is thought that the force majeure event has elapsed and, therefore, the commercial tenants may not allege this situation anymore.

Local contacts

Jorge Mondragón - Gonzalez Calvillo SC

Myanmar

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • Myanmar’s Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Department of Civil Aviation announced the extension of international flight restrictions for all airlines operating international air services to and from Yangon International Airport. The extension is until 31 July.

  •  On 16 April 2020, Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports restricted gatherings of more than five people in one place. Only certain activities have been allowed, e.g., shopping at a supermarket within county boundaries (limited to one person and a driver per household per visit) and working at a company or a factory.

  • On April 19, Myanmar imposed a night time curfew in the Yangon, Mandalay, Ayeyarwaddy and Sagaing administrative regions. However, on May 13, the National Committee on Prevention, Control and Treatment on COVID-19 announced that the curfew hours will be loosened to 12 a.m. – 4 a.m. from 10 p.m. – 4 a.m. starting from May 15.

  • All businesses are mostly allowed to be open, but the government has encouraged people to implement stay-at-home and work-from home policies until 15 July 2020.

  • On 19 April 2020, the Government announced prevention guidelines version 3.0 for workplaces, factories and construction sites that opened for business amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • The guidelines highlighted government guidance on shielding and promoting hygiene and sanitation. For workplaces, an employer must allow an employee to work-from-home if an employee is able to complete their assigned tasks at home. However, if it is unable to implement a work-from-home arrangement for an employee, an employer is encouraged to arrange for protective measures at the workplace (e.g. to keep a 6-feet distance between each employee, to adopt work rotation arrangements, and to instruct employees to wear masks on a daily basis, etc.)

•      A construction site is also not allowed to have more than 50 workers and the operator is obliged to strictly follow hygiene recommendations.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

No.

  • Authorities struggled to keep residents at home during the annual 10-day water festival holiday on 10-19 April. The government canceled the celebration of water festival and Myanmar New Year.

  • There is no proper coordination between the government and the private sectors on lock down in factories etc.

  • Several announcements have caused a significant amount of confusion as details have been vague.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

N/A

There is no franchise law in Myanmar.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • All businesses are mostly allowed to be open, but the government has encouraged people to implement stay-at-home and work-from home policies until 15 July 2020.

  •  There is government guidance on shielding, hygiene and sanitation.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants and dine-in services were allowed to reopen starting on 19 May, but strict procedures must be followed, e.g. provision of a hand washing facilities and hand sanitizers at entrances (some towns are also in total lockdown).

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Myanmar has not implemented any restrictions on take-away and delivery services.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • On 18 March 2020, Myanmar’s Ministry of Finance and Industry announced measures to address the economic consequences caused by COVID-19 by establishing the COVID-19 Fund to provide a 1-year loan at an annual interest rate of 1% to hotel and tourism businesses that have suffered from COVID-19 (including also relief from tax payment obligations).

  • On 20 March 2020, Myanmar’s Social Security Board announced that it will allow employers to make social security payments quarterly, instead of monthly, due to the hardship businesses are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • On 27 April 2020, the Government announced the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan which contains plans for recovery post-COVID-19. These plans include postponement on corporate income tax payments up until September 2020 and more.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The Central Bank of Myanmar announced several directives regarding the reduction of interest rates to counter the effects of COVID-19 and to encourage the development of the economy for employees and the self-employed. Currently, the minimum interest rate for bank deposits is set at 5% per annum and the maximum interest rate for secured loans is set at 10% per annum.

     

  • The COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan also promotes access to low-cost funding and lending support for smallholder farmers who have lost sales revenue.
  • The Government has suspended electricity tariffs for all households (excluding embassies and international organizations) for up to 150 units per month.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No.

  • Myanmar has not announced any relief plans for commercial tenants in the private sector. Any relief will depend on the terms agreed upon between a landlord and tenant.

  • However, according to the COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan, the Government has exempted rent charges for affected firms that have leased state-owned factories for manufacturing who have made progress in their business, and have made regular payments in the past three months for 3-6 months on a case-by-case basis.

Local Contacts

Thomas Joseph Treutler - Tilleke & Gibbins

Norway

Is the country currently in lock down?

No, but certain restrictions apply:

  • Requirement of a one meter distance between civilians in public (not including close relatives in the same household).

  • Recommendation of no gatherings of more than 20 people (regardless of whether indoor or outdoor).

  • People who have been contaminated, are sick in general or have been quarantined (i.e. have been in contact with contaminated persons have been tested for COVID-19 and are waiting for their test results etc.) are prohibited from using public transportation, or go to stores or work. People who have been contaminated are also prohibited from going on walks.

  • Cruise ships with more than 100 people onboard may not dock in Norway. 

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Kindergartens and schools, including universities, are allowed to be open provided they followed certain criteria relating to infection control.

  • Schools were reopened for grades 5 to 10 on 11 May.

  • Hairdressers, health related services such as opticians, chiropractor, physical therapists, psychologists, private cosmetic surgeons and similar businesses were allowed to reopen on 27 April (provided they follow certain strict criteria's relating to inter alia cleaning, number of customers at the same time etc.

  • Restaurants, bars, cantinas and similar are allowed to be open provided they can arrange for a 1 meter distance between customers. As of 15 August, no alcohol may be served after midnight in any restaurants or bars in Norway.

  • Public events with more than 200 people are not permitted. This limit was to be increased to 500 people on 1 September, but due to the recent increase in contaminations, this has been postponed indefinitely.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

N/A

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Non-food retailers are permitted to be open provided they can secure a 1 meter distance between customers.

  • Hairdressers, health related services such as opticians, chiropractor, physical therapists, psychologists, private cosmetic surgeons and similar businesses were allowed to re-open provided they follow certain strict restrictions relating to inter alia cleaning, number of customers at the same time etc.

  • Amusement parks are expected to be allowed to reopen as of 1 June provided they can follow strict restrictions relating to number of customer etc.

  • Gyms are allowed to reopen as of 15 June provided satisfactory infection control.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants, cafes and bars are permitted to be open for dining provided they can arrange for a 1 metre distance between customers.

  • As of 15 August, no alcohol may be served after midnight in any restaurants or bars in Norway.

  • No more than 200 customers are allowed in the restaurants, cafes and bars at the time, still provided a 1 metre distance between customers. Groups of more than 20 persons in the restaurants, cafes and bars are not allowed.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • No restrictions relating to take-away and delivery services. 

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Norwegian government provides a guarantee for 90% of new bank loans to both SMB and larger businesses.

  • There is a Governmental arrangement to cover up to 80% of recurring overheads (i.e. rent, electricity, accounting etc.) for businesses with a qualified revenue loss due to COVID-19. The arrangement was originally intended to cover such costs from March to May, but has been extended to August. Businesses that have been forced to shut down due to government regulations may be granted compensation for up to 90% of its inevitable and permanent costs. Compensation is calculated based on the following formula: compensation = revenue loss (compared to the same month last year) in percent x inevitable constant costs – an own share (the own share being NOK 10 000 for businesses not forced to shut down due to government restrictions) x an adjustment factor. The adjustment factor for June/July was 0.7 and for August it is 0.5. The maximum support per business was reduced from MNOK 80 to MNOK 70 in June/July and MNOK 50 in August.

  • Certain industry specific subsidy schemes, including to the airline businesses, privatised kindergartens, seasonal businesses etc.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The Norwegian Government will cover full salary for employees that have been temporarily laid-off 18 of the first 20 days of the lay-off (the Government wage compensation scheme). From day 21 temporarily laid-off employees are entitled to daily unemployment benefit. (The employer is obligated to pay full salary the first two days - the employer period). The Norwegian Parliament has recently adopted changes in legislation regarding temporary lay-offs, which mean that the employer period will increase from 2 to 10 days as of 1 September 2020. From the same date, the Government wage compensation scheme introduced 20th March 2020 when the employer period was reduced from 15 to 2 days will be terminated.

  • The number of days working parents may stay home for child care with full pay was doubled (from 10 to 20 for employees with one or two kids, from 15 to 30 for employees with 3 or more kids from 20th March 2020. As of 1 July 2020 the number of days was reset to zero, regardless of how many days working parents had used before 1 July 2020. At the same time, the scheme was changed back to its original form; 10 days per calendar year for 1-2 children and 15 days per calendar year for 3 or more children.

  • For self-employed individuals the Government has established a subsidy scheme to cover up to 80 % of lost income, given that the income lapses for a period of more than 16 days.

  • To compensate for a challenging labour market brought on by the COVID-19-outbreak, the Norwegian Parliament has in the Revised National Budget (passed 19. June 2020) decided that unemployed and temporarily laid-off employees approaching the maximum period for daily unemployed benefit shall retain the benefit until 31 October 2020. Further, the time period companies may temporarily lay off employees has been prolonged until the end of October, to prevent permanent lay-offs at the expiry of the original maximum period of 26 weeks (during a 18-month period).

  • In mid August, the Government proposed to extend the total period for a legal temporary lay-off from 26 to 52 weeks (applicable to all employers/employees). This means that employers are exempted from their obligation to pay wages for a lay-off period of 52 weeks. If adopted, this will apply from 1 November 2020. Further, the Government has proposed a so-called employer period II after 30 weeks of temporary lay-offs from 1 January 2021, where the employer must pay wages to the employee for 5 days. The purpose of the employer period II is to make employers carefully consider the need for continued temporary lay-offs.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No.

  • Not directly but the Government has established a subsidy scheme where businesses can apply for coverage of fixed costs, including rent, during the COVID-19-outbreak.

Local Contacts

Kjetil Vagen - CLP

 

Poland

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • Total lockdown was eased on 20 March, and since then Poland has been gradually re-opening.

  • On 13 June, Poland restored full border traffic within the borders of the European Union.

  • Since 1 June, domestic flights have been operating.

  • Since 17 June, flights within the European Union have been operating again, other than flights to the United Kingdom, Sweden and Portugal.

  • The external borders of the European Union remain closed.

  • The external borders of the European Union (and so the external border of Poland) has been reopened with restrictions, and so in some cases the 14 days’ quarantine period applies.

  • Poland suspended international flights to 44 countries from 12 August, e.g., the United States of America, Saudi Arabia and Luxembourg. The list of banned countries is being constantly updated.

  • The state of epidemic is still in force.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • The government announced that there would be four stages of easing lock down restrictions and Poland entered into the last stage on 6 June.

  • From 25 July, people must keep 1.5 meters apart in public areas. It still remains mandatory for people to cover their mouth and nose if they cannot keep the 1.5 meter distance (e.g, in closed areas like shops or on public transport).

  • From 8 August, and due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, some restrictions have been re-imposed in certain "poviats" (districts). The affected poviats have been divided into two groups marked by the colours red and yellow. In poviats marked red (currently 7) tight restrictions have been applied, such as the obligation to the cover the mouth and nose in all public areas and a ban on cultural events. In poviats marked yellow (currently 12) less restrictive measures have been re-imposed (e.g., people do not need to cover their mouth and nose in public areas, however limitations on the number of people allowed in restaurants or gyms still apply). Please note that this list is constantly being updated.
     

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

The government supports companies operating in Poland during the lockdown, nonetheless franchise laws (there are hardly any in Poland) specifically have not been amended. Currently, there are no official notifications announcing forthcoming changes in that sector.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

Non-food retailers are permitted to be open with no time limits. Shopping centres reopened on 4 May. On 30 May, the limits on the number of people in shops ended. However, it is mandatory to cover the mouth and nose in shops.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

Since 18 May, it has been possible to eat in restaurants, though some restrictions apply, e.g. some tables must be excluded from use and all tables sanitised. It is mandatory to cover the mouth and nose in restaurants, and masks can be only removed while sitting at tables.

This also applies to restaurants in hotels. Restaurants operating as buffets or self-service have to designate an employee to serve customers in those places.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Restaurants are allowed to operate take-away and delivery services; however, restrictions still apply concerning the decontamination of the order pick-up point, handling food in disposable gloves, and maintaining a safe distance from customers.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The government has introduced economic support in the form of an anti-crisis shield. This is a comprehensive package of government actions to counteract the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The first package entered into force on 1 April 2020, and was extended by the 2.0 shield on 17 April (containing additional solutions) and the 3.0 shield on 15 May. Recently, the government adopted a fourth extension of the anti-crisis shield which, according to government statements, will be the last one. On 19 June, the government adopted the 4.0 shield, which will be the last one.

  • The package consists of solutions prepared by the government to protect the Polish state and citizens from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It is based on five pillars:
    • Protection of jobs and safety of workers;
    • Financing entrepreneurs;
    • Health care;
    • Strengthening the financial system;
    • Public investment. 

Entrepreneurs in a difficult financial situation, due to the negative economic consequences resulting from the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infections, can obtain a loan with an interest rate subsidy in order to ensure financial liquidity. The entrepreneur can apply for this loan in certain banks. The loan agreements must be concluded before 31 December 2020.

Some information by lawyers from Bird & Bird Warsaw Office, on the current situation in Poland focused COVID-19 impact on business can be found here: 

https://www.twobirds.com/pl/news/articles/2020/poland/200406-wplyw-pandemii-covid-19-na-sektor-it, https://www.twobirds.com/pl/news/articles/2020/poland/200409-covid-19-zalety-restrukturyzacji,

https://www.twobirds.com/pl/news/articles/2020/poland/200320-alert-covid-19-zus

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • The anti-crisis shield offers solutions supporting employees and self-employed individuals. In order to prevent employee redundancies, the government has declared wage subsidies for every job at risk. Aid is available to entrepreneurs in two cases:

    • during the period of economic downturn;
    • during a reduction in working hours.

  • The government has also introduced a relief of up to PLN 2,080 gross for self-employed individuals from the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS). Those who work on the basis of a contract or work order, and can be paid up to three times this amount.

  • Other forms of employee support depend on the structure of the company. Sole traders can benefit from support for micro-businesses, e.g. a one-time, non-returnable microloan of up to PLN 5,000 to keep the company going.

  • From 1 June, employees can benefit from a ‘solidarity allowance’ if their employment contract was terminated after 15 March 2020 or expired after 15 March 2020. The solidarity allowance for up to PLN 1,400 for June till August.

  • On 15 July, the government introduced a tourist voucher, which can be used to finance holidays, e.g., stays at hotel, guesthouses or sports camp. The tourist voucher is a form of support for the tourism industry and Polish households. The voucher is a one-time payment of PLN 500 for each child up to the age of 18.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • Some solutions were introduced to suspend rents for commercial premises. Among them was a temporary termination of a lease, rental or similar agreement for space in shopping malls; however, this relief for commercial tenants is no longer in force due to the fact that the ban on operating in commercial facilities with a sales area of more than 2,000 square meters has ended. A condition for obtaining this relief was the submission by the tenant of an offer to extend the rental period by the length of the ban plus an additional 6 months. Without such an offer, the tenant must pay rent and other charges for the duration of the ban.

  • More detailed information prepared by lawyers from the Bird & Bird Warsaw Office, explaining the situation of commercial tenants can be found here:
    https://www.twobirds.com/pl/news/articles/2020/poland/200521-zmiany-w-wykonywaniu-umow-najmu


  • There is also the possibility of a grant of relief by the executive body of a local government unit, i.e. full or partial redemption, deferral of payments, distribution in instalments of receivables from lease, tenancy and use of real estate of local government units, for the period of an epidemic or epidemic hazard.

  • Currently, there are no time limits for the above - in the case of a request to waive the recovery of debts, there is a prerequisite for the deterioration of financial liquidity due to negative economic consequences due to COVID-19.

  • Also, entrepreneurs can benefit from three months’ rent or fee exemption from a lease, tenancy or usage agreement to be paid to the State Treasury. This relief can be granted for entrepreneurs who have experienced a decrease in turnover as a result COVID-19 and apply to an executive body of a local government unit.

Local Contacts

Kuba Ruiz - Bird & Bird LLP

Russia

Russia has not declared a state of emergency. Instead a high alert regime has been introduced by all Russian regions with respective local measures applicable to their respective territories. The responses below relate to local measures introduced in Moscow but similar measures apply in other Russian regions.

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • The national regime of 'non-working days' introduced by the Russian President ended on 12 May 2020. Having said this, local Russian regions are entitled to impose and/or keep their own restrictions, including suspension of business activities and self-isolation requirements based on the epidemiological status in their respective territories. 

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Moscow gradually eased the lock down measures in three stages with the final stage completed on 24 June 2020.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • Russia has no specific franchise laws and all franchising activities are governed by the Russian Civil Code. There have been no amendments to the applicable articles of the Russian Civil Code as a result of COVID-19.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • In Moscow, the restrictions on the operation of non-food retailers were lifted at the end of May 2020.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • From 23 June 2020, restaurants, cafes, bars and other catering businesses operated in Moscow were permitted to open subject to compliance with the new requirements preventing the spread of COVID-19. Currently, the following events and/or activities in restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. are prohibited: (i) public events such as weddings, commemorations, anniversaries; (ii) children's areas and play areas; (iii) buffets and salad bars; (iv) crowded zones (for example, dance zones, etc.); and (v) use of hookahs.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • From 23 June 2020, restaurants, cafes, bars and other catering businesses in Moscow were permitted to open. During lock down, take-away and delivery services were allowed, provided that customers did not enter the premises, restaurants, cafes or bars.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Russian Government has introduced a number of measures to support businesses from sectors badly affected by COVID-19. The list has been approved by the Russian Government and includes transport activities (such as air transportation, airport activities, transportation by motor transport and passenger rail transportation activities); leisure and entertainment; fitness and sports activities; tourism and hotel businesses; catering; education including that provided by non-governmental educational institutions; conferences and exhibitions activities; household services provided to consumers (such as repairs, laundry and dry cleaning services and hair and beauty salons); dental practices and retail (non-food products) (the "affected businesses"). The measures introduced to support the affected businesses include, among others:

    • concessional loans to support and maintain employment: the loan is provided for 12 months for 0% interest rate for the first six months (but no later than 30 November 2020) and then the interest rate can be no higher than the rate at which the lending bank received preferential refinancing from the Central Bank of Russia. The maximum amount of loan is determined based on a formula which takes into account minimum wage, the district, the percentage of premiums/insurance premiums and number of employees. The eligible business has, among other things, to have operated in at least one of the affected sectors for at least one year, and at the date of entering into a loan agreement the business should not be subject to any bankruptcy proceedings and/or its activities must not have been suspended;

    • government grants to partially compensate for losses: from 1 May 2020, affected businesses were entitled to apply for government grants to partially compensate their losses, including losses for maintaining employees and remuneration of employees for April and May 2020. The grant is calculated on the basis of the number of employees and the minimum wage (which is currently 12 130 roubles). To be eligible to apply for a grant, an affected business must, among other things, prove that it has retained at least 90% of its staff compared to the number of employees in March and the business must be on the unified register of small and medium-sized enterprises;

    • exemptions from the payment of taxes and contributions for the second quarter of 2020;

    • introducing further grounds for tax deferral / payment of tax and social security contributions by instalments (individual measures): such grounds include a decrease in income by more than 10% and/or income tax loss during the reporting periods of 2020 if there was no loss for 2019. Depending on the amount of reduced income, the amount of losses incurred and the category of the taxpayer, deferrals in payment may be granted for one year, nine months, six months or three months. The term for payment by instalments is determined at the taxpayer's discretion within the provided limits which generally may not exceed three years;

    • extending the deadlines for filing tax declarations/reports and payment of taxes and social security contributions: the deadlines for payment of a number of taxes and social security contributions have been extended to three months, four months or six months. The deadlines for filings due in March - May 2020 have been extended for three months for all taxpayers, including the affected businesses;

    • deferral of payments under loan agreements for small and medium-sized affected businesses: as part of the government programme,
      deferral is granted in relation to loan agreements entered into before 1 April 2020 and applies for a period of up to six months (the "deferral period"), but in any case prior to 31 December 2020. The deferral applies to payment of the principal amount of the loan which should not be payable during the deferral period. Interest charged during the deferral period will be at a preferential rate of about 1/3 of the amount of interest provided for under the loan agreement which will be payable either (i) during the deferral period or (ii) after the deferral period in equal instalments during the remaining term of the loan agreement or (iii) interest may be included into a principal amount of loan;

    • bankruptcy moratorium: a six-month ban on filing of bankruptcy petitions by creditors has been introduced in relation to, among others, the affected businesses; and

    • reducing acquiring commissions for the online sale of goods: the Bank of Russia has reduced the acquiring commissions for online purchases to 1% for the period from 15 April to 30 September 2020 (previously, the acquiring commissions varied from 1.2% to 2.2% depending on the type of payment card or product category). This reduction applies to retail and service outlets in relation to the sale of food, medicine and other medical products, clothing and consumer goods. Reduced acquiring commissions also apply to household appliances, electronics and communication devices if the sum of the purchased products is costs to 20,000 rubles.

Small and medium-sized businesses whose activities involve prolonged close contact between staff and visitors will be able to apply for government grants and must implement disinfection measures between 15 July and 15 August 2020. Based on the comments provided by the Minister for Economic Development, businesses carrying out the following activities will be entitled to apply for the grant: sports and fitness, hotels, catering, household services provided to consumers (repair, laundry and dry cleaning services and hair and beauty salons) and further education. 

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Initially, the Russian President signed a decree which declared that the week commencing Monday 30 March to Friday to 3 April 2020 as a non-working week (subject to certain exceptions).

  • Subsequently, the non-working period was extended to 30 April and later to and including 11 May.

  • The Russian Ministry of Labour commented that the non-working period should not constitute public holidays or days off work and employees should be entitled to full salary. The Russian Ministry of Labour also confirmed that employees may continue working during the non-working period remotely from home with payment of the full salary unless the parties agree in writing to reduce regular working hours and/or salary during the period of working from home.

  • Upon expiry of the non-working period, if Russian regions decide to impose and/or to keep their own measures of suspension over business activities, this should not affect the employees' salary. The latter is expressly provided for in the Decree of the Russian President.

  • Self-employed individuals who are registered as individual entrepreneurs are treated as small and/or medium-sized businesses and the measures outlined in the answer to the question regarding support for businesses will apply equally to such individual entrepreneurs, if they qualify as affected businesses, subject to certain exceptions which may be more favourable to individual entrepreneurs (for example, they may have more choice in relation to payments under loan agreements during the loan holidays than companies).

  • Self-employed individuals who are not registered as individual entrepreneurs may be entitled to a limited number of measures (for example, loans at preferential rates or extensions on the expiry date of licences/permissions for conducting certain business activities for one year if they were to expire during the period from 1 March to 31 December 2020). In addition, income tax paid by this category of self-employed individual in 2019 will be repaid in the full amount. Also, these self-employed individuals are entitled to additional income tax credits equal to the minimum wage (12,130 rubles), which will reduce the amount of income tax payable in 2020.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • Small and medium-sized affected businesses who rent federal property are entitled to an exemption from rental payments for the period of April to June 2020.

  • The Russian Government has recommended that similar measures are implemented for properties in the Russian regions/ local municipal authorities.

  • (1) Tenants who are affected businesses and who rent from private landlords, and (2) tenants renting federal, regional and municipal property can also rely on the government's tenant support measures which apply to all landlords. These measures impose an obligation on landlords to allow rent deferral under leases which were entered into prior to the COVID-19 high alert regime until 1 October 2020. Tenants who cannot use rented premises due to the specific restrictive measures imposed by local authorities are also entitled to request a reduction in rent fees.

Local Contacts

Anna Shashina - Bird & Bird LLP

 

Saudi Arabia

The information below is correct as at 11 May 2020

Is the country currently in lock down?

Partial

  • Lockdown restrictions have been gradually eased over 3 stages. The Government plans to lift all restrictions from 21 June.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Partial lifting of a 24-hour curfew

  • Resumption of some commercial and economic activities.

  • Select public places have reopened with reduced capacity.

  • Restrictions preventing large gatherings (precise numbers may vary) are in place

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • Saudi Arabia was due to introduce the commercial franchise law in April 2020.  However there not yet been any guidance issued by the authorities on the implementation of the law or the Implementing Regulations in final form.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Some shops and malls will be allowed to reopen or resume their work.

  • Select businesses may be required to remain closed pending the relaxation of restrictions.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants, cafes will be permitted to reopen as part of the phased 3-stage relaxation of lockdown.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • The serving of food in restaurants and cafes via food delivery services continues.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The General Authority for Zakat and Tax (GZAT) announced a number of measures to assist businesses overcome difficulties arising from the COVID-19 pandemic such as

    • extending the due date for filing tax returns that are due from 18 March 2020 – 30 June 2020 for 3 months,
    • suspending fines for late payments during the same time period, etc.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Under the private sector employment guidelines:

    • Private sector employers can reduce working hours and salary payments over the next six months.
    • Any reduction cannot be made for longer than six months and cannot exceed 40% of an employee's salary.
    • Private sector employers may not terminate employees during this six month period.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No.

  • Any relief by landlords would be a matter for negotiation between the landlord and the commercial tenant.

Local Contacts

Melissa Murray - Bird & Bird

 

Singapore

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Since 19 June 2020, Singapore has been in Phase 2 of the re-opening process. Restrictions on the movement of persons within the community have been eased, but safe distancing measures are still in place to minimise close contact amongst individuals. It is required that masks continue to be worn in all public places.

  • Most businesses have been allowed to resume operations at their physical premises. However, certain venues/activities where large numbers of persons are likely to come into close contact (especially in enclosed spaces for prolonged periods of time) will not yet be allowed to reopen/resume. These include conferences, exhibitions and trade fairs, as well as entertainment venues like bars and nightclubs.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

  • Singapore does not have franchise-specific legislation or registration requirements. General contract laws govern the relationship between franchisors and franchisees.

  • Under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020, temporary relief is provided to individuals and businesses which are unable to perform their contractual obligations due to the unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak through a statutory moratorium on the enforcement of rights and obligations relating to certain contracts to be performed on or after 1 February 2020 and for contracts that were entered into before 25 March 2020.

  • To trigger the relief measures, the non-performing party must serve a notification for relief on (i) the other contracting party; and (ii) any guarantor or surety for the contractual obligation. Any disputes on suspension of obligations may be referred to an assessor for determination.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes. 

  • Businesses providing retail, dining, education, healthcare, personal health and wellness, and home-based services will be allowed to resume operations at their physical premises.

  • However, businesses owners must continue to comply with safe management measures, such as ensuring a one-metre distance between each group of patrons. Retail outlets with high human traffic (such as malls and large standalone retail outlets) must also restrict capacity, and prevent crowds or long queues from building up. Business owners who fail to properly implement safe distancing measures may subject to a fine or imprisonment.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes. 

  • Restaurants and cafes are allowed to resume dine-in services, as long as there is no live music, television screening or any other forms of public entertainment at these venues. Sale and consumption of alcohol must also cease by 2230hrs daily, including at any outdoor refreshment areas owned or managed by these establishments. Furniture at such outdoor refreshment areas should be kept secured after close of business.

  • Bars and other nightlife venues have not yet been allowed to reopen their physical premises.

  • Business owners must ensure that safe management measures continue to be in place. These measures include limiting each group size to no more than five persons, ensuring at least one-metre spacing between groups of diners or customers in queues, and implementing contact tracing and temperature taking for all customers. Business owners who fail to properly implement safe distancing measures may subject to a fine or imprisonment.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Take-away and delivery services can continue, as long as baseline sanitation and hygiene measures such as temperature taking and frequent sanitisation continue to be observed. Reasonable steps should also be taken to ensure that delivery personnel observe at least a one-metre spacing at all times and do not cluster together.

  • As far as possible, collection and delivery should be spaced out and contactless – for example, by placing food orders at designated locations for pick-up by delivery personnel. 

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The Singapore Government has been providing financial support to businesses, through property tax rebates, rental waivers, and cash flow support. Grants are also available to support capacity building, especially for employee training and digital solutions which facilitate telecommuting. Wage subsidies of up to 50% are available for businesses that are not yet able to resume operations, until they resume or March 2021 (whichever is earlier).

  • Sector-specific support has been targeted at industries hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis, especially tourism and aviation. These include enhanced wage subsidies, redeployment programmes, and schemes to encourage local tourism.

  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore is working with FIs to offer options for individuals and SMEs to lower their short term repayment obligations for their secured loans and to stay insured despite facing difficulties. Cost of business loans is also intended to be lowered further through the MAS' funding to banks and finance companies (at an interest rate of 0.1% to eligible FIs) and through MAS increasing its risk-share of loans under certain SME lending schemes to 90%.

  • Under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020, the monetary debt threshold for corporate insolvency has been temporarily raised from $10,000 to $100,000. The time period for responding to a statutory demand has also been lengthened from 21 days to 6 months.

  • To support the nationwide move towards digitisation, the Singapore Government will provide pay-outs to F&B and retail businesses to finance the costs of implementing e-payment systems, e-invoicing, and business process or e-commerce solutions.

  • Financial support will be made available for promising start-ups, to encourage matching private investments that can help sustain start-up innovation and entrepreneurship activities

     

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Additional pay-outs are available for middle to low income Singaporeans who have lost their jobs or are placed on no-pay leave due to COVID-19, union members, and families who require urgent support.

  • A platform has been set up to support employers in providing traineeships to fresh graduates entering the labour force, as well as mid-career workers seeking to upgrade their skills and start new careers. Wage incentives are available to encourage employers to hire those who have completed the relevant reskilling and traineeship schemes.

  • Under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020, the monetary debt threshold for personal bankruptcy has been temporarily raised from $15,000 to $60,000. The time period for responding to a statutory demand has also been lengthened from 21 days to 6 months.

  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore is working with banks and finance companies to help borrowers with their repayment obligations under existing residential mortgages, by deferring repayment of the principal or both principal and interest up to 31 December 2020. It is also possible to extend the tenure of the mortgage by the duration of the deferment period, to lower the monthly instalment amount following resumption of regular payments.

  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore is working with insurance companies to allow more flexible payment schemes for insurance policies. Individuals with life and health insurance policies whose premiums fall due between 1 April and 30 September 2020 are allowed to defer payments for up to six months. Individuals with general insurance policies (e.g. property and vehicle insurance) may also apply to their insurance companies for flexible instalment payment plans.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  •  Property tax rebates of up to 100% have been made available for tenants in non-residential properties. The COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act mandates that the landlord must pass this benefit on to the tenant, whether by way of payment or offset of rental fees.

  • Additional rental relief has also been made available for SME tenants in private non-residential properties, as well as commercial tenants in public non-residential properties.

  • A tenant who becomes unable to pay rent on account of cash-flow issues due to COVID-19 may obtain a statutory moratorium for temporary suspension of rent payment. A notice for relief must be served on the landlord, and any guarantors or sureties. Once the landlord receives such notice, it is precluded from taking action against the tenant for non-payment, including the following: (a) continuing or commencing court and insolvency proceedings due to the non-payment, (b) exercising a right of re-entry or forfeiture due to the non-payment, or (c) terminating the lease due to non-payment of rent and other monies. Such relief is available only for contracts where rent falls due on or after 1 February 2020, and for contracts that were entered into before 25 March 2020.

Local Contacts

Lorraine Tay - Bird & Bird LLP

 

South Africa

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • South Africa extended the national state of disaster to August, at this stage and remains at level three of its staged lockdown. Government has suggested that this stage will remain in place for some time.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

The following regulations have been eased further:

  • The sale of tobacco and alcohol products remain prohibited.
  • Restaurants are permitted to operate restricted capacity and provided that patrons are seated no less than 1.5m away from each other. Alcohol may not be sold by restaurants. Restaurants are also required to conduct screening questionnaires.
  • The school year has been extended beyond 2020 into 2021.
  • Leisure travel within the same province is allowed.
  • Travel between provinces is currently prohibited without a valid permit to do so.
  • The curfew has been extended from 10pm to 4am, except where a person has been granted permission to operate in respect of essential services or attending to security or medical emergencies.
  • Sports activities are allowed, including professional non-contact and contact sports matches, subject to specific guidelines.
  • Exercise is allowed, including group exercise, which is restricted to no more than 4 people.
  • The wearing of face masks is compulsory in all public spaces. Failure to wear a face mask now carries criminal sanctions.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

The restrictions have been eased to allow for the reopening of movie theatres, casinos, parks and sports grounds and leisure facilities, many of the above are subject to a limitation of 50% capacity and social distancing of 1.5m between patrons. Gyms and night clubs have not been allowed to reopen at this stage. 

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes, subject to a 50% capacity limitation and provided that patrons are seated at least 1.5m away from each other, subject to restrictions and guidelines.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

A short summary of the available relief to businesses is set out below:

  • The National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) has provided relief to film practitioners affected by the lockdown. This funding applies to producers already registered with the NFVF.

  • After negotiations with government, most banks have extended payment holidays on loan repayments to businesses.

  • The Department of Tourism has created a relief fund for SMMEs in the tourism industry.

  • Extension to the Employment Tax Rebate (ETI) Programme have been implemented. The ETI provides a rebate to employers for each employee between the ages of 18 and 29 and which earn within certain thresholds. The payment of these rebates have been extended to employees up to the age of 35, the amount payable in terms of the rebate have been extended and the payment date has been moved to facilitate payment during the lockdown period in order to assist eligible businesses.

  • The South African Revenue Services (SARS) has provided for the deferral of provisional tax payments for businesses with a turnover of under R50 Million per annum.

  • SARS has also announced that all businesses liable for Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax may defer up to 20% of this payment until August 2020, this deferral is free of interest.

  • The Business growth and resilience facility (BGRF) was created by government to assist businesses supplying and manufacturing essential items during the COVID – 19 pandemic. Access to the BGRF is subject to certain prerequisites set out by government.

  • The SMME relief finance facility (SMMERF) was also set up to provide financial assistance to SMMEs for a period of six months from 2 April 2020. Access to this assistance is subject to certain prerequisites set out by government.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

A short summary of the available relief to employees is set out below:

(self-employed individuals are eligible for certain of the benefits set out in point 7 above, provided that they meet the requirements set for relevant the fund/scheme)

  • The COVID-19 temporary employee/employer relief scheme (TERS) was created to provide emergency relief to enable employers to pay employees who are temporarily laid off due to the COVID-19 crises for a period of three months from April 2020.

  •  The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) short time / reduced working time programme allows employees to apply for ‘income replacement’ on a sliding scale up to a maximum amount. This relief could remain payable for a period of up to 12 months.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • Certain measures were announced by government to assist commercial tenants and provide competition law exemptions, these are:

    • rental payment suspensions and/or rental discounts;
    • limitations on the eviction of tenants; and
    • the suspension of or adjustment to lease agreement clauses which restrict certain tenants rom undertaking reasonable measures to protect the viability of their businesses during the lockdown.

  • In addition, the Property Industry Group has created a relief package for retail tenants. This package is only available to members who were in good standing with the Group before the commencement of the lockdown and provides relief to tenants by ensuring that the tenant will not be evicted for a period of two months, provided that no staff is retrenched during that period.

  • While the fund is primarily aimed at assisting SMMEs, assistance will be provided to larger businesses where funding is available.

Local Contacts

Eugene Honey - Adams & Adams

Spain

1. Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • The 'State of Alert' ended on June 21, 2020.

2. Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

Most regions of Spain have limited the capacity allowed in bars, restaurants and shops to 60-75%, although terrace spaces can be filled to 100% capacity (providing people social distance by one and a half meters).

  • For all regions in Spain (these are measures decided upon by the Spanish government which are being formally implemented across all regions):

    - Discotheques, dance halls and bars with and without live musical performances must be closed.

    - For hotels, bars and restaurants:

    • A minimum distance of 1.5 meters must be maintained for bar service.
    • A minimum distance of 1.5 meters between tables or groupings must be maintained, and there is a maximum of 10 people per table.
    • Establishments must close at 01:00 at the latest and new customers cannot be admitted from 00:00.

3. Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

4. Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes..

5. Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

Please see section 2.

6. Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

7. Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

Among other measures, the Spanish government is offering to guarantee the financial obligations of businesses vis-à-vis banks resulting from COVID-19 (note that this measure is limited and subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions).

8. Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Asides from "social" measures and those measures referred to in section 7 above, support is being provided to self-employed individuals, such as:

    (i) moratoriums on Social Security contributions for six months, without interest, corresponding to the months of May, June and July 2020; and

    (ii) deferment of payment of debts to Social Security whose regulatory period of payments takes place in the months of April, May and June 2020, being of application an interest of 0.5%.

  • For employees:

    (i) employees who have been dismissed or temporarily suspended will receive unemployment benefits (although they do not need to comply with all the requirements, and the unemployment benefits received during the state of alarm will not be counted when determining the maximum number of months during which such individual can receive benefits).


9. Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • In the absence of an ad-hoc agreement, commercial tenants who are SMEs or self-employed individuals who have "large landlords" (i.e. any individual or entity that owns more than 10 properties or more than 1,500 square meters of real estate) will not be obliged to pay rent during the state of alarm and 2 months thereafter, provided that tenant's activity has been highly affected/suspended by COVID-19 (certain thresholds are to be met). The payment of such rent will be deferred during the remaining term of the agreement and for up to 2 years.

Local Contacts

Lourdes Ayala - Bird & Bird LLP

Sweden

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • Sweden is not in lock down, but new recommendations and regulations have been issued to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in Sweden.

  • Sweden has issued an entry ban to the EU via Sweden until 15 June. The entry ban essentially applies to all foreign citizens travelling to Sweden from all countries except EU Member States, the United Kingdom, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Swedish citizens are not affected by the entry ban. EU citizens and people who have a residence permit in Sweden may still enter the country for the purpose of returning to their homes and people with particularly urgent needs or who are to carry out essential functions in Sweden may enter the country.

  • To reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, Sweden also depends on people and businesses voluntarily following the advice issued the Swedish authorities.

  • All businesses and other operations in Sweden are obliged to act to decrease the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

  • People are encourage to keep a distance of at least an arm's length to each other at all times, stay home when unwell and to not travel unless necessary.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

N/A.

  • Sweden is not in lock down. However, the Swedish authorities do not plan on easing the regulations that have been issued to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 at the moment.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

• Franchisees are obliged to follow the same recommendations and regulations as other businesses.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • All businesses in Sweden are permitted to be open.

  • All businesses in Sweden are obliged to act to decrease the risk of transmission of COVID-19. For example, business may be obliged to limit the number of people allowed at the premises at the same time, find alternatives to queues at the checkout or mark the distance between people queuing on the floor.

  • Employers are encourage help their employees by, for example, adapting the workplace to reduce the risk of employees being exposed to infection, ensuring that employees can work from home when possible, adjusting work hours so it is possible for employees to not travel at rush-hour and by avoiding unnecessary travels.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants/cafes/bars must ensure that there are no crowds of people in queues, at tables or along buffets or bars. For example, restaurants/cafes/bars cannot operate across a bar where many people gather closely while waiting to order or be served. All visitors should be seated when eating or drinking.

  • Visitors must be able to keep their distance from each other. An arm's length can be used as a guidance for how far apart guests should stay.

  • The same regulations are applied for indoor and outdoor vendors.

  • Restaurants/cafes/bars that do not follow the regulations ensuring there are no crowds on the premises may be ordered to close.
 

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Business are allowed to operate take-away and delivery as usual provided that people waiting, collecting, or paying are not crowded together.

  • Businesses operating delivery have increased since the COVID-19 outbreak in Sweden, mainly in Stockholm.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

Sweden has passed a number of new regulations to support business affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, for example:

  • A system for short-term layoffs has been put into place and will remain throughout 2020, providing employers with economic support from the government for reducing their employees' working hours instead of terminating the employment. Employers' wage costs can be halved, with the central government covering a larger share of the costs. The system can be applied retroactively from 16 March 2020. Companies that make disbursement of dividends are generally not eligible.

  • General payroll taxes are reduced for pay-outs during March to June. Employers only need to pay 10,21 %, which covers the retirement pension fee. The reduction applies to 30 employees with a salary up to SEK 25 000 per employee and month. For higher salaries, the general payroll tax is the same as usual for amounts above SEK 25 000.

  • All employers will receive full compensation for the cost of sick pay for employees during April and May 2020. Employers will pay sick pay to their employees as usual, but will be compensated through payment to the employer's tax account. The first payments will be made after 12 May 2020.

  • The government guarantees 70 % of new loans that banks provide to companies experiencing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 virus. The guarantee will be issued to banks, which in turn will provide guaranteed loans to companies. The loans are limited to SEK 75 million per company. The new guarantee is mainly directed at small and medium sized enterprises.

  • Businesses can apply for a temporary payment respite of general payroll taxes, deducted tax and VAT, which may be granted for up to 12 months. The payment respite covers tax payments for 3 months, if the business reports monthly. For companies that report VAT on a quarterly or yearly basis, respite may only be granted for one reporting period. The respite must concern the period January to September 2020. Businesses must pay interest of 1,25 % on the respite amount as well as an application fee which amounts to 0,3 % of the respite amount per started calendar month.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Sweden has passed a number of new regulations to support employees / self-employed individuals affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, for example:

  • The social security contributions of self-employed people have been reduced.

  • Sole traders with an F-tax card will be compensated by the state for sickness benefits for days 1 to 14 of their sickness period.

  • The sickness benefit standard deduction has temporarily been discontinued, which means that sick pay is paid from the first day at home (not the second as is normally the case). The new regulation is in force from 11 March to 31 May 2020. The medical certificate requirement from the eighth day of sickness has been temporarily suspended, which means that a doctor's certificate is no longer mandatory during the first two weeks people are absent from work due to illness to receive sick pay. The suspension applies from 13 March 2020 until further notice.

  •  Temporary changes to the Swedish unemployment benefit system have been implemented. These changes have been made to ensure that more people can receive unemployment benefits. Those who are self-employed can pause their business by temporarily ceasing operations to receive unemployment benefit. These changes are due to expire after 3 January 2021.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • The Swedish government has adopted regulations for a rent relief package due to the COVID-19 pandemic directed towards certain exposed industries. The relief package consist of a temporary discount on fixed rental costs were the Swedish state carries parts of the landlord's costs for rental discounts which have been agreed between the landlord and the tenant.

  • Exposed industries cover non-consumables, hotels and restaurants but also other industries such as retail, lodging, dentists and hair and body care.

  •  Landlords that reduce the fixed rental costs for tenants in exposed industries during the period 1 April to 30 June 2020 can apply for compensation for part of the reduction. The compensation will be paid by the state with a maximum of 50 % of the reduction, or a maximum of 25 % of the original fixed rental cost. Compensation can be applied for during the period 1 July to 31 August 2020.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Gabriel Lidman - Bird & Bird LLP

Thailand

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

  • The state of emergency has been extended until 31 July 2020.

  • Some incoming international flights remained banned.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes

  • Some non-Thai nationals have been permitted to enter the country (e.g. spouses and children of Thai nationals and those with work permits).

  • The night curfew was lifted from on 15 June 2020.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

  • No franchise laws have been amended.

  • As a general point to note, new franchising regulations entered into force on 4 February 2020 in Thailand.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • A tracing app called "Thai Chana" has been implemented in business establishments to track visitors.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants and cafes started operating again on 3 May 2020, however customers must sit 1.5 meters apart.

  • The sale of alcoholic beverages has resumed.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • There are no restrictions on this.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • SMEs enrolled in the Soft Loan program for COVID-19 and who are committed to the “single account” program can claim 150% of actual loan interest paid from April 1 to 31 December 2020, as tax-deductible expenses.

  • The government has reduced withholding tax from 3% to 1.5% for payments made between 1 April 2020 and 30 September 2020 in relation to income from service fees, commission fees, intellectual property rights, and more.

  • SMEs can claim 300% of actual salary costs paid to qualifying employees from April to July 2020 as tax-deductible expenses.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • New regulations have been published under the Social Security Act, allowing affected employees to claim compensation of up to 70% of their daily wage from the Social Security Office if they meet certain requirements.

  • Visas have been automatically extended and there has been a temporary suspension on the 90-day reporting requirement for non-Thai citizens, up until 31 July 2020.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • The Ministry of Interior ordered local authorities to help commercial tenants who lease government-owned property though providing discounts on rent or allowing rent to be paid late without penalty.

  • The Mass Rapid Transit Authority of Thailand announced relief measures for qualifying commercial tenants, under which businesses that were ordered to close by the government will have rental fees waived for two months, while businesses that were not ordered to close will receive a 50% discount on their rent for four months.

  • The Port Authority of Thailand announced a 50% discount on rent for commercial tenants for three months.

Local Contacts

Tiziana Sucharitkul - Tilleke & Gibbins

 

The Netherlands

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.*

  • The Netherlands has introduced a partial lockdown, coined ‘intelligent lockdown’. This includes the following:
    • employees are encouraged to work from home when possible;
    • all people should keep 1,5m distance from others who do not belong to their households;
    •  passengers aged 13 and over must wear a non-medical face mask while using public transport;
    • people cannot have more than 6 guests at their home (indoors and outdoors), but this excludes children under 13.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Since 1 June, lockdown restrictions have been eased rapidly. However, as the number of COVID-19 infections has been increasing, the government announced on 6 August that it will be supporting local authorities in taking additional action to get COVID-19 under control where necessary. This includes introducing extra, local measures in addition to the national measures already in place. The heads of safety in each region can now take steps to prevent COVID-19 hotspots emerging to gain control of these local outbreaks.

  • The measures regions can take include, amongst others:

    • limiting the opening times of eating and drinking establishments;
    • introducing behavioural measures such as making face masks mandatory in outdoor locations (for instance in busy streets);
    • closing places like parks or shopping centres;

  • On 18 August the government announced a further tightening up of measures, as since the last press conference on 6 August, the number of infections and hospital admissions has increased. 

 

Have local franchise laws been amended?

N/A

  • There is currently no franchise law in the Netherlands.

  • However, on 30 June 2020, the Upper House of Parliament voted in favour of the new Franchise Act, meaning it has now passed the entire legislative process and will likely come into force on 1 January 2021.

  • There do not seem to be any intentions to adapt the new Franchise Act due to COVID-19.


Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.**

  • Yes, non-food retailers are permitted to be open, as long as they have taken measures to ensure people within their stores can maintain 1,5m distance from each other.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Restaurants, cafes and bars are permitted to be open.

  • However, restaurants, cafes and bars must use reservations (made either in advance or at the door), pre-entry health checks and assigned seating (at either a table or the bar). This applies both outdoors and indoors and regardless of the size of the establishment. Customers must provide their names and contact details so that the municipal health service (GGD) can contact them if an outbreak is traced to that establishment. Customers can voluntarily provide this information.

  • On 18 August the government announced that there will be greater focus on this in terms of enforcement due to the increasing number of infections and hospital admissions.

  • If a GGD traces an outbreak to a leisure establishment, the head of the safety of the region can close that establishment for up to 14 days.

  • Discotheques, nightclubs and similar dance venues remain closed for the time being.


Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Yes, restaurants/cafes/bars are allowed to operate take-away and delivery, but have to ensure all customers and employees can maintain 1,5m distance from other persons.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • Yes, the government provides emergency aid to businesses, including income compensation, (partial) funding of salaries of employees, tax relief and credit facilitation.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes, for example:

  • Employees in professions which the government has designated as 'crucial' or 'vital' can make use of childcare services;
  • The government provides emergency aid to employees / self-employed individuals, including income and salary compensation;
  • Self-employed individuals can apply for tax relief.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.***

  • There is currently no relief provided by the government specifically to commercial tenants.
  • However, sector organisations of tenants and landlords have concluded an agreement containing guidelines for how to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis regarding rent payments. The main guideline is that rent payments for the months of April, May and June may be suspended from 50% up to 100% by retailers who have suffered a decrease in turnover of at least 25% over this period. Parties will at a later time discuss the possibility of remitting rent payment obligations.
  • However, these guidelines are not legally binding and individual landlords can therefore refuse the suggested suspensions of payments.

Local Contacts

Roelien van Neck - Bird & Bird LLP

 

*Partially.
**but not all non-food retailers.
***from sector organizations and on a voluntary basis.

UAE

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • Overnight curfew (the ‘national sterilisation program’) remains in place.

  • Precise timing of curfew or travel restrictions will differ, depending on Emirate.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Depending on Emirate, select public places have reopened with reduced capacity (the exact percentage of restriction differs depending on nature of the public place and the Emirate).

  • Restrictions preventing large gatherings (precise numbers may vary) are in place.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Reduced trading hours for retailers (which differ depending on the Emirate).

  • Additional requirements apply in relation to trying on such things as clothing, jewellery and testing perfumes or make-up.

  • Entry into retail outlets may be limited by: (1) capacity, (2) age restrictions, or (3) duration of visit.

  • Visitors may face temperature checks and be required to have PPE (masks and gloves etc.)

  • Reopening stores must have all staff tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to work.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes. (subject to 30% capacity restrictions)

  • Same restrictions as non-food retailers apply for restaurants, cafes and bars.

  • In addition, dine-in seating capacity is reduced (exact percentage of restriction depends on the Emirate).

  • Disposable cutlery to be used, additional sanitisation rules apply.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Delivery and take away services can continue.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • Reductions in various fees (such as utilities, commercial licences, municipality fees etc.)

  • Amount of reduction differs depending on Emirate or freezone where the business is located.

  • Guidelines for private sector employers with expatriate workforces have been issued to reduce labour costs, such as:

    • putting employees on paid leave;
    • agreeing on unpaid leave;
    • agreeing on a temporary/permanent salary reduction; and
    • terminating employment for operational reasons

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes – stimulus plans for those sectors most affected by COVID-19. 

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • Differs depending on landlord – relief has ranged from deferring rent payments, rent waivers, or waiver of penalties associated with late rent payment.

  • Commercial tenants struggling to pay rents are exempt from eviction.

Local Contacts

Melissa Murray - Bird & Bird LLP

 

United Kingdom

Is the country currently in lock down?

  • No, regulations came into force on 23 March 2020 requiring people to stay at home and only leave for very limited purposes, these have been eased from 29 May 2020 as lockdown measures relaxed – please see section below on the easing of lockdown. A further easing of lockdown rules took effect on 15 August 2020 and now all businesses except those listed below can re-open provided they follow the appropriate government safety guidance.

  • There are local lockdowns in place in parts of Northern England (parts of Greater Manchester, East Lancashire, Preston, and West Yorkshire), Leicester and at certain factories in Northampton.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes there is only a very limited range of businesses/venues that cannot re-open (subject to local lockdown restrictions) but all businesses must follow government safety guidance for their sector as well as the requirements to wear a mask indoors

  • The following businesses are still not permitted to be open:

    • Nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques
    • Sexual entertainment venues and hostess bars bowling alleys

  • Conference centres are only open for government endorsed pilots only or to host business groups of up to 30 in accessible meeting facilities or to plan future events

  • Beauty salons can now provide treatments on the face including facial hair removal

     

  • Indoor seating in restaurants and cafes is limited to two households, or with up to one other household or up to 6 people from different households outside

  • People should continue to socially distance from those they do not live with wherever possible. Social interactions should be limited to a group of no more than two households (indoors and out) or up to six people from different households (if outdoors).

  • Households should always remain socially distanced from each other in any location. It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces).

  • Social distancing means staying "one-metre plus" where a distance of 2m is not possible.

  • Face coverings are required to be worn in the following places:

    • shops, supermarkets, indoor shopping centres,
    • indoor transport hubs and public transport
    • nail, beauty, hair salons and barbers - other than where necessary to remove for treatments
    • public areas in hotels
    • premises providing professional, legal or financial services
    • cinemas, theatres and indoor places of entertainment or cultural sites

  • From 1 August, employers should consult with their employees to determine how to work safely. Working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

  • Employers and employees should stay safe in workplaces by following “COVID-19 Secure” Guidelines. The government has issued a number of “COVID-19 secure” guidelines for a range of different industries such as shops and banks; offices; restaurants offering takeaway and delivery and working in people's homes.

  • Workplaces should be set up to meet the new COVID-19 Secure Guidelines. Employers should carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with their employees and trade unions.In particular, workplaces should, where possible, ensure employees can maintain social distancing from others, and wash their hands regularly. There should be frequent cleaning of surfaces and equipment and staggering arrival and departure times

  • Guidance is to aim to wear a face covering in enclose spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others they would not normally meet

Have local franchise laws been amended?

N/A

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

  • Yes, all non-food retail businesses are permitted to open. Face coverings are mandatory in all shops, supermarkets and shopping centres.

  • Shopping centres are open but should limit the number of customers entering

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Restaurants, cafes and bars reopened for dining in from 4 July

The government has announced that more pubs, restaurants and cafes will be able to serve customers outdoors as the licensing process for outdoor dining is simplified and costs reduced for outdoor seating and stalls, making it easier for people to safely drink and dine outside. 

Pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks and terraces as dining and drinking areas, using their existing seating licenses.

Temporary changes to licensing laws will allow many more licensed premises, such as pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises. Customers will be able to buy their drinks from a pub and consume them elsewhere, making social distancing easier.

Restaurants, cafes and bars should follow Government guidelines which include the following:

  • You should assist the NHS Track and Trace service by keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business, and assist NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed

  • Managing the entry of customers, and the number of customers at a venue, so that all indoor customers are seated with appropriate distancing, and those outdoors have appropriately spaced seating or standing room.

  • Making customers aware of, and encouraging compliance with, limits on gatherings. For example, on arrival or at booking.

  • You should calculate the maximum number of customers that can reasonably follow social distancing guidelines (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable, is acceptable) at the venue.

  • Providing clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example, signage, visual aids and before arrival, such as by phone, on the website or by email.

  • Managing numbers and social distancing should be done, for example, through reservation systems, social distancing markings, having customers queue at a safe distance for toilets or bringing payment machines to customers, where possible and encouraging use of contactless ordering from tables where available. For example, through an ordering app.

  • Providing only disposable condiments or cleaning non- disposable condiment containers after each use.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

  • Yes, food delivery and takeaway at restaurants, cafes and pubs/bars are all operational. This covers the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises.

  • People can enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers. Businesses are encouraged to take orders online or by telephone.

  • Planning regulation has been changed to enable restaurants, cafés and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so.

  • Restaurants will need to follow the Government Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19) which sets out guidelines to be followed in relation to food hygiene and social distancing for food businesses and for restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery this includes:

    • Any food handler who is unwell should not be at work. If they have symptoms, they should follow government advice and stay at home.
    • The advice on social distancing is to maintain a distance of 2 metres between individuals. This advice applies to both inside the food business and in the external public areas where customers may need to queue.
    • Customers should be encouraged to order online, by app, or by phone.
    • Customers waiting to order or collect should wait in a designated area where a 2-metre distance from other people can be maintained. If this is not possible, customers should enter the premises one at a time and only when their order is ready to be made or collected.
    • If running a delivery service, you should advise all delivery drivers that no goods or food should be physically handed over to the customer. There should instead be a set drop-off point agreed in advance.
    • After ringing the doorbell, the driver should maintain a safe distance from the door and oversee the delivery of the goods. The goods should not be left unattended.

  • Government Guidance on Working Safely during coronavirus for restaurants offering takeaway and delivery requires such businesses to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with employees.

  • As well as the general requirements in relation to social distancing, regular hand washing and surface cleaning, the government guidance sets out a number of specific steps relating to kitchens and customer facing areas include:

    • minimising contact between kitchen workers and front of house workers, delivery drivers or riders, for example, by having zones from which delivery drivers can collect packaged food items
    • using physical barriers between front of house workers and customers
    • spacing workstations 2m apart in kitchens and providing floor markings to show this.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

  • Yes there are a range of measures including:

    • Reduced VAT Rate for the hospitality sector – the existing VAT rate of 20% will be temporarily reduced to 5% for food and no-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, bars, cafes as well as hotel and holiday accommodation and admissions to attractions (including shows, theatres, circuses, amusement parks, concerts, museums, cinemas and exhibitions). The reduced rate will have effect from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021. If an eligible business has received payments or issued invoices before 15 July 2020 for services that are provided on or after that date, VAT will be due at the new, lower rate of 5%. The business must correct the existing VAT invoice by issuing a credit note.

    • Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme – the governments Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme will provide a 50% reduction up to a maximum of £10 per person, to all diners who eat and/or drink-in throughout August in cafes, restaurants and pubs across the UK from Monday to Wednesday. Customers do not need a voucher as participating establishments will just remove the discount from their bill. Businesses simply reclaim the discounted amount through an online service, supported by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Claims can be made on a weekly basis and will be paid into bank accounts within five working days. HMRC are inviting cafes, restaurants and pubs to register for the scheme now.

    • Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility - scheme launched by the Bank of England to help investment grade companies to bridge Coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans

    • Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) - businesses with turnover of more than £45 million can borrow up to £50m and for larger businesses up to £200m under this scheme with Government guarantee of 80%, loans offered at commercial rates of interest with a term up to 3 years.

    • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) - Small business with a turnover of up to £45m can borrow through the British Business Bank £1,000 up to £5m per company with government meeting interest costs for the first 12 months. Finance terms are from three months up to 6 years for term loans and asset finance and up to three years for revolving facilities and invoice finance. The scheme provides the lender with a government-backed guarantee against 80% of the outstanding facility balance. No personal guarantees for facilities under £250,000.

    • Bounce Back Loan scheme - will help small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000 (up to 25% of turnover), and the cash should be accessible within 24 hours of approval for most firms. This is a 100% government-backed loan scheme with the government guaranteeing 100% of the loan and there won’t be any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. Loan terms will be up to 6 years and after first year the interest rate is set at 2.5% per annum. A network of accredited lenders will deliver the scheme. Lenders are not permitted to take personal guarantees or take recovery action over a borrower’s personal assets. The borrower remains 100% liable for the debt.

    • Support for Innovative UK Companies through Coronavirus Future Fund - This scheme will issue convertible loans between £125,000 and £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak. The government initially made £250 million available for the Future Fund, however more funding has been made available. The convertible loan agreement is predefined and cannot be negotiated. Funding must not be used to: repay any borrowings; pay any dividends; pay and bonuses; or pay any advisory fees. An 8%/ annum interest charge applied. This can be increased by agreement. Interest to accrue until the loan converts, when it will either be repaid or converted into equity.

    • Grants of £25,000 are available to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England that operate from premises with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000. Eligible businesses in those sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to and including £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000.

    • Deferral of VAT and Time to Pay tax schemes available.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

  • Yes, the main employee scheme is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

    • all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis
    • To qualify for the scheme employees must have been on a payroll on 19 March 2020 - wages backdated to 1 March 2020
    • Employees that are full time, part time, and on flexible/zero hours contracts qualify
    • Covers up to 80% of salary (up to £2,500/month) of anyone not working (but retaining job) as a result of Covid-19
    • Scheme to run until the end of October, with greater flexibility introduced from 1 July to encourage employers to fund part of the cost and get employees back to work (even on a part time basis).
    • From 1 July 2020, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time. Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them - and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.
    • In August: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions.
    • In September: The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500.
    • In October: The government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500.

  • Self employed support scheme

    • Covers self-employed workers with trading profits of up to £50,000 who earn the majority of their income via self-employment
    • Taxable grant worth 80% of average monthly profits over the last three years (up to £2,500/ month)for those adversely affected by COVID-19
    • Those eligible will be able to claim online from 13 May 2020, and once a claim is approved payment will be received within 6 working days
    • Those eligible under the Self-employed support scheme will be able to claim a second and final grant in August. The grant will be worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

  • Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction

    • These measures mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss payment up to 30 September 2020

    • There is an option for the Government to extend this period if necessary

  • All property occupiers in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors including restaurants will receive 100% rates relief between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021 with no limit to Rateable Values

  • The government has introduced temporary new measures to safeguard commercial tenants against aggressive debt recovery actions during the coronavirus pandemic

    • Statutory demands and winding up petitions issued to commercial tenants to be temporarily banned where a company cannot pay its bills due to coronavirus until 30 September
    • landlords prevented from using Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) unless they are owed 189 days of unpaid rent this is in force until 30 September 2020.

Local Contacts

Mark Abell & Shelley Nadler - Bird & Bird LLP

 

USA

Is the country currently in lock down?

No.

All states have begun opening. Some are in phase 2 and others have moved to stage 3.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

Partial.

  • Renewal filing dates have been extended in most states with franchise laws

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Most states limit capacity

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Most states limit capacity

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • The CARES Act allows businesses to obtain loans to cover 2 months of payroll

  • Loans are forgiven if the business maintains the same employment level

  • An additional stimulus package is under discussion

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • Stimulus checks of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child have been sent to all taxpayers below certain income thresholds ($99,000 for single taxpayers/$198,000 per family)

  • An additional stimulus package is under discussion

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

No.

  • None other than a temporary suspension of evictions

  • A number of commercial tenants have stopped paying rent and landlords have been suing as a result.

  • There have been a number of bankruptcy filings designed to shed leases/adjust rent.


Local contacts

Robert Smith - Quarles & Brady LLP

Vietnam

Is the country currently in lock down?

Yes.

  • Vietnam has prohibited non-Vietnamese nationalities from entering the country since 22 March 2020. There is an exception for those who arrive for diplomatic/official purposes. Experts, managers, investors and technical workers may be admitted on a case by case basis.

  • The Vietnamese authorities have not yet announced a date when foreigners will be allowed to enter Vietnam again. The government is holding discussions with strategic investors in Vietnam (including China, South Korea and Japan) to ease the entry ban on foreigners from these countries on a step-by-step basis. However, these negotiations have not been concluded.

  • Land borders with neighbouring countries (i.e., Laos, Cambodia and China) have been closed entirely or partially.

  • Vietnam suspended the granting of visas for foreigners on 18 March 2020.

Are lock down restrictions beginning to be eased?

Yes.

  • Vietnam has allowed all nationwide activities to return to normal.

Have local franchise laws been amended?

No.

Are non-food retailers permitted to be open?

Yes.

  • Please refer to question No. 2.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars permitted to be open for dining in?

Yes.

  • Please refer to question No. 2.

Are restaurants/cafes/bars allowed to operate take-away and delivery?

Yes.

  • Please refer to question No. 2.

Is the government providing support to businesses?

Yes.

  • On 8 April 2020, the Vietnamese Government enacted Decree 41/2020/ND-CP to extend the time-limit for payment of taxes and rent.

  • On 16 April 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Trade issued Official Letter No. 2698/BCT-DTDL which reduced power costs for businesses by 10% for three months.

  • Credit institutions have been instructed to support businesses by increasing the access to capital through increasing capital availability, reducing interest rates and reducing internal fees, etc. (Prime Minister's Directive 11/CT-TTg dated 4 March 2020).

  • For labour-related matters, the Vietnam Social Security suspended payments into pension funds (Official Letter 860/BHXH-BT dated 17 March 2020). The Vietnam General Confederation of Labor implemented an extension on trade union fee payments in the first six months of 2020 (Official Letter 245/TLD dated 18 March 2020).

  • Loans to cover salaries are available through the Vietnam Bank of Social Policy (Government Resolution 42/NQ-CP dated 9 April 2020).

  • Resolution 84/NQ-CP dated 29 May 2020 of the Government provides a wide range of subsidies to businesses affected by Covid 19 such as aviation businesses, SMEs and domestic manufacturers.

Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?

Yes.

  • There is a subsidy of VND 1,800,000 (approx. USD80) per month available for employees whose employment contract was suspended (Resolution 42/NQ-CP of the Government dated 9 April 2020, Art. II.41).

  • There is a subsidy of VND 1,000,000 (approx. USD 45) per month available for employees whose employment contracts have been terminated (Resolution 42/NQ-CP of the Government dated 9 April 2020, Art. II.4).

  • There is a subsidy of VND 1,000,000 (approx. USD 45) per month available for the self-employed (Resolution 42/NQ-CP of the Government dated 9 April 2020, Art. II.4).

  • The above subsidies are available for up to three months, and are subject to certain conditions specified in Decision 15/2020/QD-TTg dated 24 April 2020 of the Prime Minister.

Is there relief for commercial tenants?

Yes.

  • The payment dates for rent in respect of state-owned property has been extended under Decree 41/2020/ND-CP.

  • A reduction of 15% of rent is available for commercial tenants who rent property from the Government and whose operation was suspended due to Covid 19 (Resolution 84/NQ-CP, Art. II.1(a)).

  • For tenants who rent from private owners, the Vietnam central and local government has called for private owners to reduce rent. However, it is subject to the willingness of such private owners to provide any relief to tenants.

Local Contacts

Thomas Joseph Treutler - Tilleke & Gibbins