Is the country currently in lock down?
- 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?
- 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?
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?
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?
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?
- 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?
- 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:
Is the government providing support to employees / self-employed individuals?
- 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?
- 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:
- 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.
Kuba Ruiz - Bird & Bird LLP