30 March, 2020
Back to homepage

The COVID-19 outbreak: An overview of measures taken by the authorities of North Macedonia – obsolete*

Many – if not all – states find it necessary to invoke some measures and/or restrict certain rights of their citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic just to stay afloat. Typically, states opt to give some tax reliefs to taxpayers, introduce financial injections to small and medium enterprises, freeze prices, introduce more favorable contractual terms for debt repayments, and, more generally, introduce economic measures to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak. On the other hand, states also opt to limit the freedom of movement by putting specific categories of people into complete lockdown and by introducing mandatory curfews for all citizens, without age distinction. In this regard, North Macedonia is no exception.

On March 18, 2020, North Macedonia, declared the state of emergency, recognizing the danger posed by the spread of COVID-19. The initial set of restrictions and economic measures aimed at curbing the outbreak of the virus were implemented by the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia, upon declaration of the state of emergency.

The state of emergency was originally intended to be in place for 30 days. However, given the deteriorating health situation in the country and the region, the state of emergency will surely be extended.

 

Restrictions in force in North Macedonia

Public gatherings

All public gatherings across the territory of North Macedonia are banned, regardless if the event was organized to take place indoors or outdoors. This includes cinemas, theatres, museums and all other cultural and/or social institutions. In addition to this, cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, casinos and sports betting shops are also shut and so are the shopping malls. The only stores that are allowed to remain open are supermarkets and pharmacies, although with limited working hours due to the curfew.

 

Curfew

The curfew is introduced for all persons between 21:00 to 6:00, but with several exceptions. Exempt from the curfew are persons needing urgent medical assistance, public health employees with valid permissions issued by the Ministry of Interior Affairs,  members of the Ministry of Interior Affairs and members of the Army of North Macedonia, firefighters, as well as city cleaners who are working the night shift.

 

Quarantine

Any person who enters North Macedonia, and comes from countries with a high risk of COVID-19 infection, is ordered to remain in the 14-day quarantine. Any persons who have been or are suspected to be in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 infection, are ordered self-isolation for 14 days. Otherwise, they will be placed in quarantine.

 

Those who choose to travel abroad during the state of emergency will be banned from entering North Macedonia for three months

If a person wants to leave North Macedonia during the state of emergency, they must sign a statement and commit to staying abroad for three months. In case, that the person who plans to leave wants to enter the territory of North Macedonia they will be banned from doing so. Of course, there are exceptions to this measure which concern drivers of cargo vehicles who cross the borders to and from North Macedonia every day, and citizens who are leaving to seek medical treatment abroad.

 

Economic measures and labor issues

Prices

The Government sets the maximum price for a number of products, both wholesale and retail. Traders cannot freely set the price for bread, salt, sugar, oil, flour, milk and dairy, eggs, meat, pasta, medicine, personal protective gear, personal hygiene products and disinfectants. The maximum price amount for these products cannot exceed the price they reached on 11 March 2020. This price restriction is valid until 30 April 2020, but we reasonably expect that the Government will prolong its decisions, having in mind the current situation with the pandemic.

 

Financial and fiscal support

The Development Bank of North Macedonia will support SMEs severely affected by the coronavirus crisis, and it secured EUR 5,7 million for that aim. Companies are entitled to interest-free loans, with a six months grace period, and repayment period of two years. The loan size will be EUR 3,000 to EUR 30,000, depending on their size: micro-companies can get up to EUR 5,000, small business up to EUR 15,000 and medium companies up to EUR 30,000 in loans. 

In addition to the Development Bank’s support, the Government will partially fund salaries (50% of the average salary paid in 2019) in tourism, transport and hospitality sectors for April, May and June 2020. Other affected companies could also expect such support. On the other hand, companies receiving support (i) must not reduce the number of employees below the number recorded in February 2020, starting from the day the company gets funding; (ii) must not pay out dividends during 2020 until the day of submission of the annual accounts i.e. financial statements for 2020; and (iii) must not pay bonuses after the measure comes into force. In case supported companies record profits for 2020, they will be obliged to return grants.

In addition to companies which operate in tourism, transport and hospitality, other affected companies are also released from advance payment of corporate income tax for April, May, and June 2020.

Some measures were also taken by the Ministry of Finance of North Macedonia. The Ministry announced the reduction of the statutory default interest rate by 50%, reduction of the default interest rate on unpaid public imposts from 0.03% to 0.015%, and reduction in prices for maintenance of fiscal cash registers up to 50% to the providers of such services.

 

Labor issues

One of the measures taken by the Government concerns employed parents. One of the parents of children under the age of 10, including those of single parents, will be able to stay home and take care of the children. Before the employees choose to stay home, they must provide proper evidence concerning their children’ age, such as certificates issued by kindergartens, passport copies or copies of a birth certificate. In addition to this, each employee who decides to participates in this plan must give a statement under full moral, material and criminal liability that their absence won’t be misused, and that they agree to work from home if their employer requires them to do so and to be present at their workplace, for a period of two to three hours, in urgent situations.

One of the measures concerns pregnant women and chronically sick people. The Government recommended that pregnant women and chronically sick people should be relieved from their work duties and stay at home. In order to exercise their rights, pregnant women and those who are chronically ill should obtain certificates from their general practitioners confirming their condition. However, not every chronically ill person is covered by this measure. The list of illnesses is set, and only those employees who have illnesses included on that list are entitled to be relieved from work (e.g. chronic respiratory diseases, severe cardiovascular diseases, diabetes – TYPE1, malignant diseases, and immune-compromising states).

 

There is a general recommendation for employers, regardless if they are in private or public sector, to organize their work remotely, if possible. Naturally, this highly depends on the type of work and its efficiency, and if that kind of organized work does not disturb smooth and ordinary functioning of institutions.

 

As for organization of work in production industries, the work should be reorganized in three shifts, and if necessary, even in four shifts. When the shift ends, the facility should be appropriately disinfected. In plants where the operational process is directly carried out, the number of employees should be optimized so that the workers are between 1.5m to 2m apart from each other. In any circumstances, all facilities should be disinfected once a week by accredited service providers. In-person meetings should be avoided, and communication should be either by phone, e-mail or by any other form of electronic communication.

 

For more information, please contact us via covid19@geciclaw.com