As COVID-19 continues to impact the global and local community, a number of measures are being introduced by the European Union and the Government of Malta. The following is a summary of some of these measures, based on information made publicly available as at 18 March 2020.
1. Statement by the European Council (Economic Stabilisers)
The Council of the European Union issued a statement on 16th March 2020 outlining the first set of national and European measures and plans for setting a framework for further actions to respond to developments and support the economic recovery of the European Union. The statement refers to the following:
- All national authorities will allow automatic stabilisers to function and in addition implement all necessary measures to ensure that the economic consequences of COVID-19 are tackled and they will implement temporary measures such as:
- Immediate fiscal spending targeted at containment and treatment of the disease.
- Liquidity support for firms facing severe disruption and liquidity shortages (especially SMEs and firms in severely affected sectors) – this can include tax measures and public guarantees;
- Support for affected workers to avoid employment and income losses, including short-term work support, extension of sick pay and unemployment benefits and deferral of income tax payments.
2. Coordinated efforts at the European level to supplement national measures.
3. Necessary measures to help the economy recover once the coronavirus has receded.
2. Decisions of the European Central Bank
On 4 March 2020 the European Central Bank issued a press release detailing a range of precautionary operational measures to mitigate the potential risks associated with the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19.
On 12 March 2020 the Governing Council decided on a comprehensive package of monetary policy measures to support liquidity and funding conditions for households, businesses and banks and help preserve the smooth provision of credit to the real economy. This package involves temporarily conducting additional longer-term refinancing operations (LTROs), applying more favourable terms during the period from June 2020 to June 2021 to all TLTRO III operations outstanding during that same time, and adding a temporary envelope of additional net asset purchases of €120 billion until the end of 2020. More detailed information on these decisions can be found in three related press releases available on the ECB’s website.
3. Statement by the European Commission
On 13th March 2020, the European Commission (EC) issued a press release summarising its immediate response to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. The Commission committed to using all the instruments at its disposal to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic, in particular:
- To ensure the necessary supplies to our health systems by preserving the integrity of the Single Market and of production and distribution of value chains;
- To support people so that income and jobs are not affected disproportionally and to avoid permanent effect of this crisis;
- To support firms and ensure that the liquidity of our financial sector can continue to support the economy
- And to allow Member States to act decisively in a coordinated way, through using the full flexibility of our State Aid and Stability and Growth Pact Frameworks.
State aid Framework Flexibility
Member States can design ample support measures in line with existing EU rules and are empowered to take measures, such as wage subsidies, suspension of payments of corporate and value added taxes or social contributions. In addition, Member States can grant financial support directly to consumers
European Fiscal Framework Flexibility
The Commission will propose to the Council to apply the full flexibility provided for in the EU fiscal framework so that they can implement the measures needed to contain the coronavirus outbreak and mitigate its negative socio-economic effects. The Commission decreed that the COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as an “unusual events outside the control of government” implying that exceptional spending to contain the COVID-19 outbreak such as health care expenditure and targeted relief measures for firms and workers is allowed.
The Commission will recommend adjusting the fiscal efforts required from Member States in case of negative growth or large drops in activity.
Ensuring solidarity in the Single Market
The Commission is taking all necessary steps to that end including by providing guidance for Member States on how to put in place adequate control mechanisms to ensure security of supply, and by launching an accelerated joint procurement procedure for these goods and issuing a recommendation on non CE-marked protective equipment.
Finally, the Commission is liaising with Member States, international authorities and key EU professional associations to monitor the impact of the crisis on the tourism sector and coordinate support measures.
Mobilising the EU budget
The EU budget will deploy its existing instruments to support these companies with liquidity, complementing measures taken at national level. In the coming weeks, EUR1 billion will be redirected from the EU budget as a guarantee to the European Investment Fund to incentivise banks to provide liquidity to SMEs and midcaps.
Alleviating the impact on employment
The Commission will accelerate the preparation of the legislative proposal for a European Unemployment Reinsurance Scheme. Moreover, the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative will facilitate the deployment of the European Social Fund – a fund geared towards supporting workers and healthcare.
The European Globalisation Adjustment Fund could also be mobilised to support dismissed workers and those self-employed under the conditions of the current and future Regulation. Up to EUR 179 million is available in 2020.
Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative
The Commission proposed to direct EUR 37 billion under Cohesion policy to the fight against the Coronavirus crisis proposing to relinquish this year its obligation to request Member States to refund unspent pre-financing for the structural funds.
1. Legal Notice 72 of 2020 (Enforcement of Directions relating to Quarantine (Amendment) Regulations, 2020)
This Legal Notice amends Legal Notice 39 of 2020 (discussed in our first update) and increases the penalty which may be issued to persons failing to abide by mandatory quarantine periods to €3,000.
2. Legal Notice 73 of 2020 (Issue of Permits by Local Councils Regulations, 2020)
The Superintendent of Public Health ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants, cafeterias, snack bars, cinemas, gymnasiums, museums, exhibitions, clubs, discotheques, night clubs, open-air markets, indoor swimming pools, national swimming pool, gaming premises including controlled gaming premises, bingo halls, casinos, gaming parlours, lotto booths and betting shops.
Restaurants, snack bars and kiosks may continue to provide delivery and takeaway services to the community and restaurants situated in hotels shall continue to provide room service to hotel guests and delivery service in the community.
3. Legal Notice 74 of 2020 (Granting of an Emergency License in Exceptional Circumstances Regulations, 2020)
The Legal Notice empowers the Social Care Standards Authority, at any time it deems necessary, to grant an emergency licence in exceptional circumstances in order to provide a social welfare service.
Social welfare service is defined as meaning care services, provided in relation to the well-being of service users, whether by a person, agency or residential facility, or in the community or in care and nursing home or in the home, as well as may be prescribed.
The emergency licence shall only be issued for a maximum period of six (6) months but can be withdrawn at any time in the event that the exceptional circumstances cease to exist or for any
4. Legal Notice 75 of 2020 (Suspension of Legal Times relating to Promise of Sale Agreements, Notarial and other related matters (Epidemics and Infectious Disease) Order, 2020)
This Legal Notice provides that when the Superintended of Public Health orders the closure of all courts or any courts, such order shall suspend the running of:
- all the legal terms imposed on a notary public by law to register any deed, will, act or private writing; or
- any period within which the notary public, in terms of any applicable law, has to pay taxes collected by him in the exercise of his profession; or
- any term related to fiscal benefits, incentives or exemptions; or
- any period within which a notary public is to submit any information or documentation to any authority or regulator pursuant to relevant notarial activity.
Moreover, any expiration term of any promise of sale agreement duly registered in terms of law with the Commissioner of Revenue within the period established by law shall also be suspended whilst the order for closure is in force. This suspension will apply without the need of any signatures or formal renewals by the parties.
The suspension shall last until 20 days following the lifting of the repeal of any such order by the Superintendent. This Legal Notice should be read in conjunction with Legal Notice 65 of 2020 which was published on 13th March 2020 and ordered the closure of the Courts of Justice.
This Legal Notice also repeals Legal Notice 43 of 2020, which provided for similar suspensions further to the Superintendent of Public Health ordering the closure of government departments.
5. Legal Notice 76 of 2020 (Closure of Places Open to the Public Order, 2020)
Through this Legal Notice, the Superintendent of Public Health has ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants, cafeterias, snack bars, cinemas, gymnasiums, museums, exhibitions, clubs, discotheques, night clubs, open-air markets, indoor swimming pools, national swimming pool, gaming premises including controlled gaming premises, bingo halls, casinos, gaming parlours, lotto booth and betting shops.
The Legal Notice provides that restaurants, snack bars and kiosks shall continue to provide delivery and takeaway services to the community and restaurants situated in hotels shall continue to provide room service to hotel guests and delivery service in the community.
6. Legal Notice 77 of 2020 (Closure of Schools (Extension of Period of Closure) Order, 2020)
Through this Legal Notice, the Superintendent of Public Health has extended the closure of schools indefinitely.
7. Legal Notice 78 of 2020 (Period of Quarantine (Contact with other persons) Order, 2020)
Through this Legal Notice, the Superintendent of Public Health has ordered that any person who comes in contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 must submit oneself to a 14-day period of quarantine immediately upon receiving an oral or written order.
The Legal Notice also provides that whenever any person who is subject to quarantine requests a service from any public servant or public officer or person employed with a government department or government entity or from any private individual or private entity which service requires the entry into premises where the quarantine is being affected, such person shall inform the suppliers that he/she is subject to quarantine.
1. The Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit
On 17th March 2020, the FIAU issued a notice to subject persons advising of a number of measures adopted in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. These measures include, but are not limited to:
- The extension of the deadline for the submission of REQs: The FIAU have removed the ‘late submission’ submission period, to the effect that the submission deadline for REQs has been extended to 4th May 2020. Consequently, the late submission penalty fee of EUR 100 shall not be levied for REQ submissions made during the period from 1st April 2020 to 4th May 2020. Administrative penalties will however apply for REQ submissions made after 4th May 2020.
- Remote working arrangements for FIAU officials: Physical meetings will be postponed or held via alternative means and queries to the FIAU should be submitted via email, as follows:
2. Malta Enterprise
Malta Enterprise has issued an FAQ in relation to the cash grant being granted for the facilitation of teleworking activities. This FAQ may be accessed on covid19.maltaenterprise.com