Overview of legal measures as of 10 May 2020 as response to the coronavirus. Please note: Due to the extraordinary situation, the legislation is in continuous evolution and may change very fast.
The law on Emergency Situation and State of Exception allows for the declaration of an emergency situation in case of threats to national security which relate to disasters or dangers related thereto, and threats to critical state infrastructure, should the state, society at large, environment, economic activity or health and life of human beings be significantly endangered.
In light of the communication of 11 March 2020 of the World Health Organisation that COVID-19 has become a pandemic, the Cabinet of Ministers acting pursuant to the aforementioned law opted to exercise its statutory right on 12 March 2020 to restrict the rights and freedoms of the state, governmental authorities, legal and natural persons, and further impose additional obligations upon them during the current emergency situation. The declaration of emergency thus provides for a number of safety measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Pursuant to Cabinet Order No. 103 the currently declared emergency situation shall remain in force until 9 June 2020, with the possibility for the Cabinet to subsequently review the necessity for additional prolongations. A plan for the gradual opening-up of the Latvian economy was approved on 7 May 2020.
1. INTERVENTIONS AND RESTRICTIONS
1.1 Legal basis
Acting on the basis of the aforementioned laws, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia has introduced a number of preventive actions.
International air, sea, rail and bus passenger travel has been suspended, save for repatriation flights from abroad. People having returned to Latvia from abroad are to undergo mandatory self-isolation for 14 days. Exemptions to the travel ban and self-quarantine are provided for troops of NATO member countries, diplomatic corps, and certain foreigners employed in commerce.
The borders between Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania will be opened up for civilian travel on 12 May 2020. People having travelled between the three countries will not be required to undergo the abovementioned self-quarantine.
Governmental measures have thus far not affected the transport of cargo. In fact, those employed in the sectors of transport and carriage of passengers, and crews of passenger, freight, or technical voyages must not follow the general self-isolation requirement upon their return from work trips and official travel abroad. Instead, they may continue to, say, haul cargo, insofar as the respective employee neither exhibits symptoms nor has come into contact with those suffering from COVID-19.
The issuance of visas has thus far not been discontinued.
1.4 Export control
Insofar as international trade and customs is concerned, the measures explicitly provide that cross-border trade is not to be affected and has indeed been maintained relatively intact. Nonetheless, the export of pharmaceuticals to third-countries, i.e. countries that are neither members of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area, has since been subject to a blanket ban. Additionally, certain pharmaceuticals may no longer be exported to countries of the European Economic Area.
Undertakings are further mandated to primarily ensure the availability of foodstuffs, medicinal products, medical devices, personal protective equipment, disinfectants, basic necessities, and raw materials necessary for the production thereof for domestic market demands. Moreover, supplies of medicinal products, medical devices, personal protective equipment, and disinfectants shall be primarily available for the needs of the state. Finally, the government is authorised to introduce export authorisation on certain products subject to Regulation No. 2020/402 and ethyl alcohol in particular.
However, not all of the recently introduced measures suppress trade. To support cross-border supply chains, transport drivers’ working time regulations have been relaxed and now provide for extended maximum driving times and reduced rest times, with an increase to 11 hours for daily driving time (up from 9 hours), and weekly driving time of 60 hours (up from 56 hours). The weekly threshold may not, however, exceed 96 hours over the course of two consecutive weeks (up from 90 hours).
Similar extensions are provided for port workers to ensure safe naval navigation. Furthermore, those employed in the sectors of transport and carriage of passengers, and crews of passenger, freight, or technical voyages must not follow the general self-isolation requirement upon their return from work trips and official travel abroad. Instead, they may continue to, say, haul cargo, insofar as the respective employee neither exhibits symptoms nor has come into contact with those suffering from COVID-19. Last, but not least, the Ministry of Defence has been authorised to partake in the provision of logistical services to service providers deemed to be of critical importance in relation to the current COVID-19 outbreak.
Systematic and regularly updated information on border crossing rules during the COVID-19 pandemic is published in a database set up by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
1.5 Prohibition of crowds
Gatherings in indoor and outdoor public spaces are limited to no more than 25 people, save for gatherings while maintaining a two-meter distance from one another.
Schools and universities
Classes and lectures at schools and universities, as well as kindergartens and other educational and training institutions are prohibited. Kindergartens, preschools and elementary schools shall provide childcare services where both parents are employed and there no other means of childcare can be provided for.
Preschools may now educate children either online or in-person.
Events and businesses
All restrictions pertaining to gatherings in indoor and outdoor spaces are permitted as of 7 May 2020, insofar as they are attended by no more than 25 people and self-distancing measures are abided by.
In-person casinos and slot machine salons are banned from operating during the emergency situation, while electronic gambling being still permitted.
1.7 Open Businesses, industries and allowed gatherings
As of 7 May 2020 businesses are no longer subject to weekend closures.
1.8 Shareholder's meetings and other meetings of companies
Participation in shareholder and stockholder meetings is now possible remotely via either one of the following means:
voting prior to meeting;
voting via electronic channels;
1.9 Supply of essential medical goods
Undertaking are to primarily ensure pharmaceutical availability for local market needs. Governmental measures provide for a blanket ban on pharmaceutical exports to third countries, and a ban on certain pharmaceutical exports to member states of the European Economic Area.
1.10 Health care
To the extent possible, healthcare services are rendered remotely, whereas planned clinical services including dentistry services are postponed, with only emergency cases and necessary procedures being served.
Failure to abide by the social distancing or self-quarantine requirements shall result in either administrative or criminal liability, with monetary fines in the amount of up to EUR 2 000 for natural persons or EUR 5 000 for legal persons, or imprisonment of up to eight years.
2. SUPPORT OF BUSINESSES
2.1 Legal basis
The government has approved a set of measures aiming to assist businesses continue their operations.
2.2 Support measures
Tax payments can be either postponed for up to 3 years or be paid in instalments without without any additional costs or related penalties to any undertaking affected by COVID-19 meeting certain criteria. The government has established a scheme permitting companies to receive government-backed loans or government guarantees for existing loan facilities.
Municipalities have been empowered to extend deadlines for real estate and other tax payments. Additionally, self-employed persons need not make mandatory advance payments of personal income tax for the period normally required, with the deadline for filing of annual reports also now having been delayed. Insofar as employees and other taxpayers are concerned, tax refund payment dates too have been pushed forward to allow affected persons receive much-needed funding.
Lastly, non-denatured ethanol to be used in the production of disinfectants is no longer subject to taxation.
3. SUPPORT OF THE JOB MARKET
3.1 Legal basis
The orders of the Cabinet of Ministers provide for financial benefits to employees suffering from job cuts, and employees having been furloughed or subject to part-time working arrangements.
3.2 Support measures
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Undertakings may apply for governmental assistance in the form of financing for employee downtime. Self-employed persons and micro-enterprise tax payers who have not received income from their economic activity, on the other hand, can receive governmental grants up to EUR 700 per month.
Additionally, insofar as it is integral to the performance of the employee’s tasks and duties, the employer is entitled to request the employee to disclose their health status.
4. SUPPORT OF SPECIFIC SECTORS
4.1 Legal basis
The Cabinet of Ministers has produced an exhaustive list of sectors affected by COVID-19 thus qualifying for assistance from the government.
4.2 Support measures
Financial support includes, among others, government-backed loans and government guarantees for existing loan facilities.
5. TENANCY AND LEASE
5.1 Legal basis
A specific order of the Cabinet of Ministers allows for lease payment decreases for tenants of real estate owned by public entities.
Undertakings may receive real estate lease payment suspensions or decreases by 90%, in addition to a blanked waiver of contractual penalties and late interest for due lease payments, if the lessor is a public entity or a corporation controlled by a public entity.
7. DEBT COLLECTION
7.1 Legal basis
The government order calls for extended deadlines pertaining to debt collection and insolvency proceedings.
Under certain scenarios liabilities and liabilities secured via entries in public registers can be enforced if the debtor has been warned at least 60 days in advance thereto. Submission of creditors’ insolvency petitions is now postponed until 1 September 2020 even if certain conditions for declaring insolvency are met.
Electronic communication service providers can be requested to disclose location data about persons infected with COVID-19 or persons who have come into contact with infected persons to perform epidemiological investigations and verify information submitted by the person to ensure compliance with social distancing and self-quarantine requirements.