As we previously reported, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the global workplace and international employer-employee relations in profound ways. As COVID-19 continues to spread, countries have enacted nationwide orders, requiring billions of people to stay at home. Recently, in an effort to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19, several countries have extended national stay-home orders. The ordered restrictions vary according to jurisdiction specific reasons.
On April 15, 2020, Belgium’s National Security Council (“NSC”), which includes Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes, announced the extension of the country-wide COVID-19 lockdown until May 3, 2020. While the lockdown mandates, among other things, the closure of non-essential shops, the restriction has been relaxed with respect to certain small businesses whose business occurs primarily in the spring, such as crafting shops and garden centers. These stores will be permitted to reopen, but only under social distancing conditions. Sports and cultural events, such as festivals, however, have been placed on hold until August 31, 2020. In addition, Prime Minister Wilmes announced the NSC’s intention to assess the reopening of stores, cafes, travel, and schools in the coming weeks.
On April 13, 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron announced extension of the French national lockdown to May 11, 2020. While acknowledging that the COVID-19 epidemic had slowed in France, President Macron emphasized the need to maintain the lockdown to further curb its spread. Under current restrictions, French residents must stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or exercise on their own. President Macron stated that the eventual reopening of France will be progressive, beginning with schools and houses of worship.
On April 14, 2020, the date India’s nationwide lockdown was scheduled to end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced its extension to May 3, 2020. Prior to Prime Minister Modi’s announcement, several Indian states had already had extended the lockdown in their regions. The Prime Minister stated that in the coming week, the government will assess blocks, districts and states to identify areas that have made advances in stopping the spread of COVID-19 to determine where certain relaxations of the restrictions might be given.
On April 9, 2020, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country’s lockdown, which began March 27th, would continue until the end of April. The country’s lockdown order prohibits South Africans from leaving their homes except to seek medicine or medical care, buy food and supplies or collect a social grant, and also bans the sale of alcohol and cigarettes. President Ramaphosa noted that the country’s rate of infections had slowed dramatically since the restrictions were imposed and asked South Africans to continue to make sacrifices, “to slow down the spread of the virus and to prevent a massive loss of life.” In addition, South African health leadership stated that the lockdown would be lifted progressively and would depend on the average rate of new infections between April 10, 2020 and April 16, 2020.
On April 16, 2020, the British government announced extension of the country’s lockdown until at least the second week of May. The announcement was made by Dominic Raab, the foreign minister who has assumed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s duties while Mr. Johnson himself recovers from COVID-19. Mr. Raab detailed five conditions that need to be met before the government will relax restrictions, specifically, “sustained and consistent fall in the daily death rates, confidence that hospitals could cope with the flow of patients, more capacity for testing, more protective equipment, and a judgment, made with the advice of government health experts, that there would not be a second wave of infections.”
We continue to monitor the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employers, and we will provide updates as new guidance and government directives are announced.