Several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact in the Country have been adopted in Equatorial Guinea since early-March 2020, even before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed. Yet, the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the Country led the President of the Republic to deem that there were grounds to declare a State of Alarm in Equatorial Guinea for Health Reasons. This declaration was made by way of Decree 42/2020, of 31 March 2020 (“Decree 42/2020”). Some answers to a few questions regarding its implications are below.

 

What is a State of Alarm?

A State of Alarm is the declaration, made by way of a Decree of the President of the Republic, of a special status in which a Country is put under should specific circumstances so justify. In this case, the main circumstances that led the President of the Republic to declare the State of Alarm include (i) the death toll caused by COVID-19 until the date on which the World Health Organization (“WHO”) declared the outbreak as a Pandemic; (ii) the impact of the outbreak on the regular activities of State Bodies and of public and private companies, that were virtually paralyzed; (iii) the effects of the outbreak on the day-to-day life of national and international populations; and (iv) overall health reasons.

The State of Alarm declared in Equatorial Guinea applies to the entirety of the National Territory, as well as to all State Bodies, Public Administration, Private Sector and general Population.

The State of Alarm was declared during a thirty (30)-day-extendable period from 15 March 2020 and has been renewed and managed several times since then, as follows:

On 14 April 2020, the Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea enacted an Order, that became effective on 15 April 2020 (“Prime Minister Order”), setting forth a fifteen (15)-day extension of the State of Alarm declared by way of Decree 42/2020;

On 29 April 2020, the Prime Minister enacted a new Order, effective from 1 May 2020, extending the State of Alarm and measures implemented in connection with same until 15 May 2020;

On 13 May 2020 (in accordance with Government sources), a meeting of the Political Committee to Fight Against and Respond to COVID-19 (“PCFR”) was held to discuss the status of the outbreak in the Country, where it was decided to extend the State of Alarm until 31 May 2020;

On 29 May 2020 (according to same Government sources), another PCFR meeting was held, where, considering the status of the COVID-19 outbreak, it was again decided to extend the State of Alarm until 15 June 2020;

On 15 June 2020, Decree 45/2020 was passed by the President of the Republic (“Decree 45/2020”) softening some measures adopted during the State of Alarm, setting forth a progressive plan for the State of Alarm to be lifted after completion of four stages, and putting the Country at Stage I. The stages are as follows:

  • Stage I – Softening the State of Alarm and reinforcement of public health control measures;
  • Stage II – Evaluation of public health measures;
  • Stage III – Stabilization of transmission and contagion; and
  • Stage IV – End of the State of Alarm;

The Country progressed into Stage II in early August 2020, pursuant to Decree 54/2020, of 4 August 2020 (“Decree 54/2020”); but

In view of the increase of the number of COVID-19 cases, the Country, regressed into Stage I by way of Decree 9/2021, of 8 February 2021, enacted by the President of the Republic (“Decree 9/2021”);

On 11 April 2021, Decree 55/2021, was enacted by the President of the Republic (“Decree 55/2021”) reinforcing confinement measures to contain the Pandemic, without expressly changing the Stage where the Country was placed (Stage I);

On 17 June 2021, Decree 77/2021 was passed by the President of the Republic (“Decree 77/2021”), softening some measures adopted under Decree 55/2021, without expressly changing the Stage where the Country was placed (Stage I); and

On 16 September 2021, 15 October 2021 and 1 November 2021, the President of the Republic enacted Decrees 107/2021 (“Decree 107/2021”) (as supplemented by the Ministry of Health’s Order 7/2021, of 17 September 2021, clarifying exclusions and requirements in under Decree 107/2021), 126/2021 (“Decree 126/2021”) and 129/2021 (“Decree 129/2021”), again reinforcing the measures to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19, currently in force until 18 November 2021, without expressly changing the Stage where the Country was placed (Stage I).

 

What are the potential impacts?

In practical terms, a declaration of a State of Alarm may involve the partial suspension of certain fundamental rights, such as travelling bans and/or limitations/prohibitions to engage in certain personal or business activities. This is well exemplified by the measures adopted in the context of the State of Alarm declared in Equatorial Guinea, which have been evolving taking into account the status of the outbreak in the Country.

The measures currently in force in the Country are mainly those contained in Decree 129/2021. They must however be combined with the provisions adopted under statutes of an earlier date that were not expressly revoked and/or that do not contradict those set forth in Decree 129/2021 (and in any statute supplementing it), including some of the measures contained (inter alia) in: (i) Decree 42/2020; (ii) Decree 43/2020, of 31 March 2020 (“Decree 43/2020”), setting forth economic measures to strengthen the national system of social protection and to support Small and Medium-Sized Companies (“SMC”) (a detailed description of these measures is in our answer in this chapter’s section on the Impact of measures approved by the State); (iii) Decree 45/2020; (iv) Decree 54/2020 (as supplemented by the Ministry of Health’s Orders 1/2020, of 25 September 2020 - setting forth measures to be complied with during Stage II of the progressive plan to lift the State of Alarm initiated by way of Decree 54/2020 - and 2/2020, of 28 September 2020 - on PCR tests, Quick Tests and other laboratorial analysis in connection with COVID-19 at public and private health establishments in the Country -, as well as by the Ministry of Health’s Notice of 22 December 2020); (v) Decree 107/2020, of 21 December 2020 (as supplemented by the Ministry of Transports’ Order 5/2020, of 23 December 2020, the Home Ministry’s Order 3/2020, of 24 December 2020, and the Ministry of Health’s Orders 3/2020, of 26 December 2020 and 5/2021, of 27 January 2021), which was enacted to strengthen COVID-19-related measures between 23 December 2020 and 15 January 2021 (a term later extended until 15 February 2021 by Government Official Announcement); (vi) Decree 9/2021 placing the Country again at Stage I of the progressive plan to lift the State of Alarm (as supplemented by the Ministry of Homeland Security Order’s 1/2021, of 12 February 2021, the Ministry of Education’s Orders 1/2021, of 14 February 2021, 2/2021, of 26 February 2021 and 4/2021, of 21 June 2021, and the Ministry of Health’s Order 6/2021, of 19 July 2021 (“Order 6/2021”)), (vii) Decree 55/2021; (viii) Decree 77/2021; (ix) Decree 107/2021; and (x) Decree 126/2021.

To the best of our knowledge, the measures currently in force in the Country include the following:

  • The general duty of cooperation whereby, “Considering that COVID-19 is a Public Health problem affecting all, all should fight against it and all structures and layers of Society were required to join the efforts of the Government and Ministry of Health, with them contributing to the most and overseeing compliance with the measures adopted”;
  • Being mandatory (otherwise, severe penalties may be imposed) to (i) use mask in open spaces, public places, public transportation and private vehicles; (ii) use infrared thermometers and disinfectant gel; (iii) maintain physical distance; and (iv) disinfect facilities on a daily basis before the beginning of the following workday;
  • All private clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies are required to inform the First Responders and send to the nearest public hospital any suspected cases or patients with clear COVID-19 symptoms (otherwise, they may be permanently closed);
  • All traditional healers are required to send any patient with acute respiratory symptoms to the nearest hospital of reference and to notify the “green line” (1111- Malabo or 1112- Bata) (“Green Line”), the First Responders, the nearest Government and/or Health Authority of the need for that transfer (otherwise, the healers’ offices may be permanently isolated);
  • All institutions are required to acquire automatic devices for disinfection and to take the temperature, as well as to place them in the access halls of public and private buildings;
  • A Group of four (4) members from each Ministry serves as liaison with the Novel Coronavirus Surveillance Technical Committee (Comité Técnico Nacional de Respuesta y Vigilancia del Nuevo Coronavirus – the “NCSTC”);
  • With regard to schools:
    • When open, schools may only be used up to a maximum 50% capacity (the Ministry of Education will (i) organize several morning, afternoon and night shifts so that the school programme is complied with at all educational levels; and (ii) carry out random PCR testing at schools);
    • Schools should resume activities on 24 June 2021, subject to always complying with COVID-19 prevention and control measures;
    • The school calendar for the 2020/2021 academic year in the city of Bata was readjusted;
    • All school staff and students over 18 years old are required to be vaccinated, their school registration depending on the submission of a vaccination certificate;  
    • Schools must be disinfected and stay closed during 2 weeks if a positive COVID-19 case is detected; and
    • Schools will be evaluated from time to time by a Committee of Health and Education Authorities to confirm compliance with the Infection Prevention and Control provisions (i.e., use of mask, distancing, hand and school premises disinfection);
  • Bars, pubs, discos, casinos and other places of leisure and gathering are closed (otherwise, severe penalties may be imposed), but parks and restaurants may be open;
  • A daily curfew is mandatory between 6pm and 6am of the following day until (at least) 18 November 2021. This requirement will be enforced by Public Order Security Officers and its breach triggers the payment of at least a 5,000 CFA franc-fine. If so authorized by (as applicable) the Ministry of Health (in Malabo)/the Health Regional Delegate (in Bata) or by the Chairmen of the Insular or Mainland Regions of the NCSTC, that will issue a credential, the following are exempt from complying with this requirement: (i) the staff of hospitals and clinics (nationwide) that provide essential services, including emergency, police and police transportation services, ambulances and vehicles for transportation of the aforementioned people; as well as (ii) NCSTC’s Members; and (iii) staff providing services in the following subcommittees: (a) Epidemiological Surveillance, (b) Quick Intervention and Green Line; (c) Case Management; (d) Quarantine; (e) Labs; (f) Logistics and Medicine; (g) Communications; (h) Prevention, Control and Disinfection; (i) Health Essential Services; (j) Management of the Deceased; (k) Data Coordination Centre and Secretariat; and (l) Vaccination;
  • No more than twenty (20) people may attend birthdays, weddings, funerals and wakes (otherwise, severe penalties may be imposed), but the use of mask and physical distancing are mandatory;
  • Worshiping acts, irrespective of the religious confession, must abide by the measures imposed by the Government (attention not to exceed 50% of the venues’ capacity, appropriate use of masks, regular hand wash, periodic disinfection of venues and at least 1.5 meters of physical distancing);
  • All private, semi-public and public establishments, as well as citizens in their daily lives, must respect COVID-19 prevention measures (appropriate use of masks, physical distancing, regular hand wash and periodic disinfection of places);
  • If increased contagion is detected in a certain neighbourhood, district or region, same will be isolated and its inhabitants will be confined until complete recovery;
  • With regard to displacements:
    • Between different districts and provinces of the Country’s islands and  mainland: all travellers must be authorized in view of proper justification (notably for health or work reasons) and show a PCR test and vaccination certificate;
    • From other regions of the Country to Malabo or Bata: the drivers must produce a vaccination certificate;
    • From Malabo or Bata to other regions of the Country: the drivers must produce a vaccination certificate and a negative PCR test;
    • To leave the Country: it is recommended that all travellers undertake a PCR test 48 hours before leaving the Country (i.e., two (2) days before catching their flight), as well as to check if any other requirements are imposed by the country of destination;
    • To enter into the Country: subject to the mandatory submission of a vaccination certificate/COVID-19 test result, as well as to undergo the required quarantine, travellers bearing all costs;
    • By road :
      • Drivers must (i) carry a liquid hydroalcoholic solution for passengers use and (ii) disinfect the vehicles with recommended products before beginning the workday;
      • Taxis may only carry two (2) people in each trajectory (driver included), usual prices must be charged, and COVID-19-related control and protection measures must be complied with (otherwise, severe penalties may be imposed);
      • City transportation-wise (public or private transportation), buses and similar are permitted, provided that occupancy does not exceed 50% of their allowed capacity, passengers and drivers show their vaccination certificate and other measures imposed by Sanitary Authorities are complied with (otherwise, severe penalties may be imposed);
      • The use of masks in public transports and similar private transportation is mandatory for all drivers and passengers (otherwise, severe penalties may be imposed); and
      • Private vehicles cannot carry more than four (4) passengers; and
    • By air :
      • No passenger can board a plane of any company whatsoever (charter flights included) without showing a vaccination certificate and PCR test upon check-in and boarding;
      • Students returning from abroad after completing their studies only have to show a PCR test when boarding the place, and must be vaccinated once in national territory;
      • National airline companies (Ceiba Intercontinental and Cronos Airlines)/domestic flights: allowed three (3) flights per week and per company;
      • International airline companies: allowed two flights per week and per company;
      • Within the subregion: Ceiba Intercontinental and Cronos Airlines are authorized, each, to fly twice a week; and
      • National and international transportation by air of goods and other supplies is allowed, subject to compliance with COVID-19 prevention and control measures in force;
    • By sea:
      • Transportation between the Country’s insular and continental regions on board of the:
        • Vessels Viteoca and San Valentín is limited to (i) one (1) trip per week and per vessel, and (ii) 250 passengers, who must show a vaccination certificate and PCR test when purchasing the ticket, checking-in and boarding the vessel; and
        • Vessel Elobey is limited to goods and other supplies (passengers not being allowed unless in special circumstances duly authorized), and its crew must show a vaccination certificate and PCR test when boarding the vessel;
      • Those travelling to the Country (passengers and crew) must (i) show a negative PCR certificate issued no more than 48 hours before the boarding date at the point of departure; (ii) show a vaccination certificate; (iii) submit to a quick IgM test at the border upon arrival; and (iv) stay in quarantine for a 5-day period, after which he/she will be subject to an additional PCR test; and
  • With regards PCR and IgM tests:
    • Tests are taken after their cost is paid into the INISP’s account at the BANGE bank and evidence of the payment is showed at the testing site (to take the test and collect its result/certification/travelling authorization);
    • Tests may be taken from Monday to Saturday between 9 am and 11:30 am, at, in the case of domestic trips, the Health Centre of the Arab Contractor roundabout (Malabo) and at the Bata Regional Hospital (Bata); and in the case of international travelling, at the Buena Esperanza Health Centre (Malabo);
    • Related costs, in the context of domestic travels, is of five thousand (5,000) CFA francs (approximately US$ 9) for nationals and foreign citizens to take a PCR test, and of two thousand (2,000) CFA francs (approximately US$ 4) for nationals and foreign citizens to take an IgM test;
    • Related costs in the context of international travels is of fifty thousand (50,000) CFA francs (approximately US$ 92)  for nationals and of one hundred and ten (110,000) CFA francs (approximately US$ 202) for foreign citizens to take a PCR test, and of twenty thousand (20,000) CFA francs (approximately US$ 37) for both nationals and foreign citizens to take an IgM test;
    • If the tests are taken after 11:30 am of 2 days before departure or on the same date of departure, the FAST TRACK procedure must be chosen, entailing a cost (to nationals and foreign citizens) of twenty thousand (20,000) CFA francs (approximately US$ 37) to take the IgM test and of fifty thousand (50,000) CFA francs (approximately US$ 92) to take the PCR test;
    • Are never taken (and their certificates are not issued) on Sundays; and
    • Solely the Baney Lab and its branches located at the Bata Centre for Blood Transfusions and the Mongomo Virgen de Guadalupe Clinic are accepted to carry out COVID-19 testing in the Country, being therefore forbidden to take tests at other places (the breach of these provisions entail the permanent closing of the non-authorized health centre).
  • With regard to vaccination:
    • The Ministry of Health shall prepare a vaccination plan;
    • Health, security and education staff, bank workers, the clergy, athletes, markets and supermarkets workers, restaurant staff and students over 18 years old shall be mandatorily vaccinates;
    • Population over 18 years old, including people with chronical diseases, must also be vaccinated;
    • All officials working in the Public Administration and its departments and divisions shall mandatorily be vaccinated (otherwise, penalties may be imposed);
    • The processing of files by the Public Administration, Autonomous Entities and Public Companies, by public officials and workers of private entities, access to stadiums and to places of leisure and school registration of students over 18 years old, is subject to the submission of a vaccination certificate; and
    • In accordance with a media report of 9 August 2021, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons apparently ordered the vaccination of all national and foreign personnel of oil companies, vaccination being a condition to work onshore or offshore.

 

Can measures be imposed to just some parts of the territory?

Yes. Even if a State of Alarm is declared regarding the National Territory as a whole, there is no prohibition to setting forth different measures applying solely in some parts of the National Territory, as may be necessary, such as forced quarantine in certain areas.

Accordingly (inter alia as an example), measures were ordered (i) by the Prime Minister on 31 March 2020 and the Home Ministry on 16 April 2020, solely applying to the Country’s Mainland; and (ii) by the Prime Minister on 14 April 2020 (under the Prime Minister Order), solely applying to the Country’s Insular Region (i.e., Bioko Island where Malabo, the Country’s capital, is located).

 

How long can a State of Alarm last?

A State of Alarm, as an exceptional status, should only last for as long as strictly required considering the underlying circumstances that led to its declaration. As mentioned above, a State of Alarm was declared in Equatorial Guinea for a thirty (30)-day extendable period from 15 March 2020 under Decree 42/2020 and:

  • On 14 April 2020, a Prime Minister Order was enacted setting forth a fifteen (15)-day extension of the State of Alarm from 15 April 2020;
  • On 29 April 2020, the Prime Minister enacted a new Order, effective from 1 May 2020, extending the State of Alarm and measures implemented in connection with same until 15 May 2020;
  • On 13 May 2020, the PCFR has apparently decided to extend the State of Alarm until 31 May 2020; 
  • On 29 May 2020, the PCFR has apparently decided to extend the State of Alarm until 15 June 2020;
  • On 15 June 2020, Decree 45/2020 was passed setting forth (i) the softening of some measures adopted during the State of Alarm, (ii) a plan for achieve the actual end of the State of Alarm; and (iii) the entry into Stage I (of IV) of the plan to achieve the end of the State of Alarm;
  •  In early August 2020, Decree 54/2020 was enacted setting forth the Country’s entry into Stage II (of IV) of the plan to achieve the end of the State of Alarm; 
  • On 8 February 2021, Decree 9/2021 was enacted setting forth that the Country should regress to Stage I (of IV) of the progressive plan to achieve the end of the State of Alarm, a stage where the Country is at;
  •  On 11 April 2021, 17 June 2021, 15 October 2021 and 1 November 2021, Decrees 55/2021, 77/2021, 107/2021, 126/2021 and 129/2021 were enacted without referencing any change in the Stage where the Country is at.

 To the best of our knowledge, no other statute has been enacted to date changing the Stage where the Country is at.

 

What are the consequences for breaching the measures ordered by the authorities during a State of Alarm?

As per Decree 42/2020, failure to comply with the measures adopted during a State of Alarm are punished in accordance with the Laws. Under the Criminal Code in force in Equatorial Guinea, the failure to comply with State of Alarm measures may qualify at least as a crime of disobedience.

Also, Decree 45/2020 and , Decree 54/2020 and MHO 2/2020 provide that the permanent isolation/closing of private health centres and/or healers’ offices may be ordered if a number of obligations are not complied with.

Finally, under the Law on Prevention and Civil Protection, that governs civil protection in situations such as a declared State of Alarm (“LPCP”), the failure to comply with the obligation to inform the NCSTC of any material sign of COVID-19 (which applies to Parents, Heads of Local Councils, of Neighbourhood Communities, of State Services, of State Powers and of State Bodies, Public Officials, as well as to the Population in general) may qualify as a very serious infraction punished with fines and closure of the facilities for a period of up to one (1) year.

For more details on these matters, please also see our answers in the Regulatory and Criminal Liability chapter.

 

 

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This information is being updated on a regular basis.

All information contained herein and all opinions expressed are of a general nature and are not intended to substitute recourse to expert legal advice for the resolution of real cases.