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 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 found to be 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 State Powers and Bodies, Public Administrations, the Private Sector and the Population in general.

The State of Alarm was declared during a thirty (30)-day-extendable period from 15 March 2020. 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 and 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. During this meeting (that was headed by Equatorial Guinea’s Vice President of the Republic) and taking into account the information brought by (inter alia) health authorities and other bodies created to accompany the evolution of the Pandemic, it was decided to extend the State of Alarm until 31 May 2020.

On 29 May 2020, and according to same sources, another PCFR meeting, likewise headed by the Vice President of the Republic, took place 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 (“Decree 45/2020”). Pursuant to Decree 45/2020, softening some measures adopted during the State of Alarm and setting forth a plan to achieve the actual end of the State of Alarm.

 

What are the potential impacts?

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

Initially, under Decree 42/2020, the following measures were adopted:

  • All land, maritime and air borders of Equatorial Guinea were temporarily closed, except in the case of ships and airplanes carrying goods, materials and equipment;
  • Save in the case of delegations of Friendly Countries and International Organizations having to travel to Equatorial Guinea in the context of programs and activities of bilateral and multilateral cooperation, that could send no more than four (4) members, all Diplomatic and Consular Missions abroad were temporarily prohibited from granting visas to enter into the Country;
  • Nationals of Equatorial Guinea were not allowed to travel abroad, unless force majeure for the trip was proven;
  • Displacements within the National Territory by citizens and non-citizens that are residents in the Country could be restricted if deemed appropriate;
  • All international flights of Airlines operating in Equatorial Guinea were temporarily suspended;
  • All those travelling to Equatorial Guinea from countries affected by the Pandemic, regardless of being national or foreign citizens, or of showing symptoms or otherwise, had to stay in quarantine for a fourteen (14)-day period, and could only leave when so authorized by the Health Authorities (under Prime Minister’s Order dated 15 March 2020, countries that had more than 500 cases of COVID-19 qualified as “countries affected by the Pandemic”, which could be the criteria used by local authorities);
  • Those responsible for the Airlines, in collaboration with the Immigration Services, were requested to provide the Ministry of Health with a listing of all passengers that entered into the Country since 1 February 2020 (members of the Government, High Officials and Officials included, if any);
  • Save for restaurants, that could continue open provided that they (i) implemented strict social distancing, health and hygiene measures (namely by frequently disinfecting the floor, furniture and utensils); and (ii) did not host or celebrate parties or massive gatherings, the following activities were temporarily suspended:
    • Gatherings of more than ten (10) people at the same place, by any possible way;
    • Celebration of parties, marriages, wakes, traditional funerals and buryings; and
    • Hanging out at places of leisure, parks, fairs and similar venues;
  • Any and all academic activities of the National Education System, at public or private institutions, as well as any sports’ competitions, were temporarily suspended;
  • In agreement with Religious Confessions operating in Equatorial Guinea, personal and group attendance to masses and other Sunday and Holidays’ religious activities were temporarily suspended, but said Organizations could continue carrying out their rites behind closed doors;
  • Collective transportation services, either by public or private buses, were suspended, and taxis could not carry more than one (1) single passenger;
  • Public Administration Services and those of the State Private Sector continued working as usual and complying with the instructions of the Government and other Bodies with authority for such purpose;
  • A Special Fund to finance the prevention, restraint and treatment of the COVID-19 Pandemic was created, counting with voluntary contributions by the Public Sector, Friendly Countries, International and Non-Governmental Organizations, Civil Society, individuals and companies (the “COVID-19 Fund”);
  • A Novel Coronavirus Surveillance Technical Committee (Comité Técnico Nacional de Respuesta y Vigilancia del Nuevo Coronavirus – the “NCSTC”) was created within the Ministry of Health, to prevent, restrain, control, follow and evaluate the development and evolution of COVID-19, being, inter alia, required to make known procedures and measures to prevent, restrain, control, follow and evaluate the COVID-19 outbreak;
  • Parents, Heads of Local Councils, of Neighbourhood Communities, of State Services, of State Powers and of State Bodies, Public Officials, as well as the Population in general, were required to inform the NCSTC of any material sign of COVID-19;
  • 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;
  • Several Ministries were empowered to issue, within the scope of their authority, any provisions necessary to better enforce and oversee the enforceability of Decree 42/2020. Accordingly, our best interpretation is that (to the best of our knowledge) the measures approved, as per the proposal of the President of the Republic (as Head of the Council of Ministers), during a meeting of the Council of Ministers that took place on 7 April 2020 were fully enforceable in the Country, namely the mandatory use by all citizens of masks and gloves at public places, in large gatherings, at banks, markets and supermarkets; and
  • Finally, according to our best interpretation of Decree 42/2020, the latter did not revoke other measures previously ordered in the Country to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact in Equatorial Guinea (provided that said measures were not contrary to any measure approved under Decree 42/2020), which should thus be deemed in force side-by-side with those enacted by way of Decree 42/2020, including:
    • The temporary suspension of christenings;
    • The obligation of national and foreign citizens that entered into the Country from 1 March 2020 onwards and that were not quarantined to contact the Health Authorities so that all appropriated measures to ensure public health could be taken;
    • The general obligation of national and foreign citizens to remain at their homes, unless they needed to go to their workplaces (public or private), or visit health centres, pharmacies, supermarkets or purchase other essential goods, in which case they could leave home alone;
    • That private vehicles could only circulate for the abovementioned purposes and could only carry two (2) passengers;
    • That certain vehicles could be prevented from circulating in certain roads by the Home Ministry, for public health or security reasons;
    • That citizens with symptoms were required to liaise with the Health Authorities through dedicated phone numbers;
    • That all citizens had to follow the orientations of the NCSTC; and
    • That all those belonging to groups more vulnerable to COVID-19, pregnant women, those above 50 years old and those with chronic illnesses (such as high blood pressure and diabetes), were exempted by the Ministry of Public Administration from work since 25 March 2020.

Afterwards, Decree 43/2020, of 31 March 2020 (“Decree 43/2020”) was enacted, setting forth economic measures to strengthen the national system of social protection and to support Small and Medium-Sized Companies (“SMC”).
Then, the Prime Minister Order was enacted extending the State of Alarm declared by way of Decree 42/2020 and the enforcement of the measures approved under same.
Later, by way of Decree 44/2020 of 28 April 2020, all celebratory activities of 1 May 2020 in connection with the International Labour Day holiday were suspended - but the day was nonetheless deemed as a holiday for the relevant purposes -, notably by prohibiting all companies from organizing any kind of celebration involving gatherings (at the workplace or otherwise).
Subsequently, the Ministry of Industry and Energy issued Ministerial Order 2/2020, of 29 April 2020, enacting measures (in addition to those adopted under Decree 43/2020) to strengthen the national system of social protection and to support SMC (“Ministerial Order 2/2020”).
On 13 May 2020, at a PCFR meeting, it was (inter alia) ordered to immediately prepare provisional hospitals in the Country for the duration of the outbreak.  
Meanwhile, Decree 45/2020 was enacted by the President of the Republic as part of the initial route to achieve the end of the State of Alarm, and several of the measures above were softened by way of same, as follows:

  • Confinement and restriction measures on the displacement of population were softened, but full freedom for people to circulate would only be allowed between Malabo and Bata (the two Country’s main cities), i.e., in the remaining parts of the Country, people could only freely circulate within the limits of the districts;
  • The (i) end of the State of Alarm; (ii) full deconfinement; and (iii) reinforcement of public health control measures, would take place after completion of the following four stages:
    • 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 NCSTC should periodically evaluate the impact of the softening measures and impose any social and public health measures or the reinforcement of the technical, human and institutional capacities, as appropriate, if an outbreak in a neighbourhood, city or specific area was recorded so that further contagion was prevented and those affected received treatment.
  • During Stage I:
    • All public establishments, hospitals, markets, supermarkets, banks, airports and healers had to adopt the measures appropriate to prevent and control infections, such as physical distance, washing and disinfecting hands, respiratory-related precautions and, if possible, measurement of the body temperature;
    • The public administration and private sector was required to promote work practices such as teleworking or shift work so that there were fewer people in public places;
    • The use of masks in open spaces, public places, public transportation and private vehicles, if in the company of others, was both mandatory and necessary;
    • Traditional, catholic and civil marriages’ ceremonies continued to be barred;
    • Face-to-face summits, conferences and seminars, sports championships and massive events were prohibited;
    • Worshipping activities continued temporarily suspended;
    • The management of all companies with more than ten (10) employees, public administrative centres, banks, autonomous entities, public places, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, public and private educational centres (all levels of education), was required to have infrared thermometers to check the temperature and disinfectant gel, as well as to strictly comply with the social distancing measures set forth and ensure the daily disinfection of all its facilities prior to commencing the following day of labour;
    • The heads of public administration’s departments and of public and private companies had to make sure that the officials, employees and other people collaborating with their services comply with the obligation of wearing masks and gloves for their own protection, as well as were required to provide the necessary means to ensure that hands are constantly washed with water and soap;
    • International and national flights were allowed, as well as national and international transportation of goods and people by sea in accordance with the following rules:
      • The entry of travellers arriving in international flights was allowed whenever the passengers were Equatoguinean citizens or, in the  case of foreign citizens, if they (a) were resident in Equatorial Guinea; (b) held a valid alternative visa; (c) were invited into the Country for professional or investment reasons and held the corresponding visa; or (d) held an entry visa (as per Ministry of Civil Aviation’s Circular Instruction No. 007/2020, of 10 July 2020, addressed to all airlines, on the enforcement of Decree 45/2020’s provisions and revoking the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s Circular Instruction No. 005/2020, of 30 June 2020, likewise on the enforcement of Decree 45/2020’s provisions and international flights);
      • All passengers travelling from a foreign country were required to carry a PCR negative test taken no more than within the previous 48 hours; otherwise, they would be tested in Equatorial Guinea, bearing the costs with testing as well as the costs with staying at an hotel while waiting for the test results;
      • Some measures could be adopted by agreement between different sectors at airports and ports to reduce the risk of contamination of travellers and crew members of ships and other vessels;
      • Diplomatic missions and offices of international bodies were required to, sufficiently in advance to the date and time of arrival of members or family, inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation and provide the flight number and city of origin; and those arriving to the Country in this context were required to (i) comply with the health and sanitary measures set forth for the control of the spread of the novel coronavirus (including the 14-day-isolation period); (ii) allow that their temperature be taken by the relevant authorities at the airport or port; (iii) comply with a mandatory 14-day-quarentine at their houses or places of residence if they did not show symptoms; and/or (iv) be transferred to health centres or other facilities prepared to treat COVID-19 if they showed COVID-19-related symptoms. The enforcement of the aforementioned measures also applied to members of diplomatic missions, consulates and international bodies that arrived to the Country to be sworn in;
      • Diplomatic and consular missions in Equatorial Guinea and abroad could not grant entry visas into the Country, except in the cases of diplomatic reciprocity;
      • Any crew member of a commercial vessel or flight that wished to disembark was required to take a PCR diagnosis test (bearing the corresponding costs); and
      • Measures for the Individual protection of passengers had to be taken when providing transportation services of passengers by sea between Malabo and Bata (and vice versa), and passenger’s temperature had to be taken when they embarked or disembarked;
    • All economic activities of all traders, retailers, wholesalers and autonomous businesses could resume as follows:
      • The use of masks was mandatory in all places of business;
      • Crowds at paying stations had to be avoided;
      • Social distancing had to be complied with; and
      • Owners of trades had to guarantee adequate capacity, limiting access when noted that there is an excessive agglomeration of clients at the place;
    • Academic activities would resume for graduation exams and selection tests in accordance with the Ministry of Education’s Orders and in compliance with the following conditions:
      • All end-of-school-year activities, as well as gatherings when the evaluation bulletins are delivered to parents and tutors, were prohibited and health and social distancing measures had to be abided by;
      • During exams and evaluations taking place in June and July 2020, protection measures had to be complied with, i.e., the use of masks was mandatory and the centres had to prevent gatherings at courtyards of scholars and students, who had to return to their homes when they finished the tests; and
      • All teaching and management personnel of educational centres of all levels had to wear masks and use disinfectant gel, water and soap to wash hands;
    • All festivities, folkloric and cultural celebrations, wakes and death-related acts were prohibited;
    • Hotels and restaurants could resume their activities with respect for the measures of hygiene and prevention when providing the services, as follows:
      • Hotels’ discos and swimming pools had to remain closed;
      • Restaurants could only use 50% of their capacity and tables had to be distant in terraces and common use locations;
      • All hospitality sector’s locations had to guarantee that their staff used masks and gloves to liaise with clients and respected opening and closing hours; and
      • Discos, casinos, party venues, bars and any other leisure places not aforementioned had to stay closed;
    • All private clinics, medical offices and pharmacies were required to inform the First Responders of any suspicious cases or patients with clear symptoms of COVID-19, and send them to the nearest public hospital; otherwise, the private health centre may be permanently isolated;
    • All traditional healers were 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), the First Responders, the nearest government or health authority of the need for that transfer; otherwise, the healers’ offices could be permanently isolated; and
    • Each institution was required to acquire automatic devices for disinfection and to take the temperature, as well as place them in the access halls of public and private buildings.

Further to the enactment of Decree 45/2020, the Dean of the Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial UNGE (Equatorial Guinea National University) has also issued Resolution 1/2020, of 16 June 2020, setting forth instructions and measures for resuming and recuperating the UNGE academic activities after the softening of the State of Alarm-related measures adopted in Equatorial Guinea due to the COVID-19 outbreak, including a readjustment of the academic calendar, the restart of academic activities in the twelve (12) Faculties that comprise the UNGE from 16 June 2020, the mandatory use of masks, and the provision of disinfectant and infrared thermometers on all accesses, as well as other measures.

Finally, in early August 2020, Decree 54/2020 was enacted setting forth the entry into Stage II of the route to lift the State of Alarm in Equatorial Guinea. By way of said Decree 54/2020:

  • Worshiping acts, in-person seminars, cultural activities and sports leagues are allowed with up to a 50%-maximum capacity, provided that all mandatory prevention and containment measures are complied with at all times, including temperature taking, hands disinfection and the use of masks;
  • Religious Confessions may resume their services after preparing a protocol to prevent and contain infection with multiple shifts; maximum allowed capacity of religious rites is 50% and no festivity or other celebration that may cause a gathering of persons is authorized, weddings, christening being limited to the religious services;
  • The following public places are allowed to open:
    • Street markets;
    • Schools from 1 September 2020 onwards 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; (ii) make sure that all prevention means are available at all Malabo and Bata schools; and (iii) carry out random PCR testing at schools:
    • Casinos, bars and public parks, at all times with preventive measures and up to a 59% maximum capacity;
  • Foreign or national travellers arriving into the Country are required to show a negative PCR test taken no more than 45 hours before; otherwise, a PCR test will be taken at the airport after the payment by national citizens of 50,000 CFA francs and/or by foreign citizens of 110,000 CFA francs into a bank account open for such purpose at the Banco Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial (BANGE) in the name of Instituto Nacional de Investigación en Salud Pública de Guinea Ecuatorial (INISAPGE), with number 37111233901-3 (Swift code NAGCGQXXX); while waiting for the PCR test results, travellers must find accommodation in one of the city hotels under the NCSTC’s supervision, and will bear the corresponding costs, regardless of being national or foreign citizens;
  • PCR tests will continue being free for all those residents in the Country; when residents are required to take a PCR test to travel and show at destination, national citizens will pay 50,000 CFA francs and foreign citizens will pay 110,000 CFA francs into the bank account identified above in advance to being tested, and will take the test at Buena Esperanza Health Centre after evidencing payment, and will be able to collect the test result from a Ministry of Health authorized delegation 48 hours afterwards;
  • The NCSTC’s will evaluate the impact of the Stage II measures from time to time and if there are increased cases of COVID-19 at a neighbourhood, city or specific place new social and health measures will be proposed or technical human and institutional capacities will be reinforced to interrupt the COVID-19 transmission chain and take care of those affected;
  • The use of mask in open spaces, public places, public transportation and private vehicles is mandatory and necessary;
  • Infrared thermometers and disinfectant gel are mandatory;
  • It is mandatory to maintain social distancing measures;
  • Facilities must be disinfected 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), the First Responders, the nearest government and/or health authority of the need for that transfer; otherwise, the healers’ offices may be permanently isolated;
  • Each institution is required to acquire automatic devices for disinfection and to take the temperature, as well as place them in the access halls of public and private buildings;
  • A Group of four (4) members is created within each Ministry to serve as liaison with the NCSTC; and
  • Several Ministers are empowered to adopt any additional measures necessary to best enforce the Stage II measures.

Decree 54/2020 entered into force at least on 6 August 2020 at the latest and, to the best of our knowledge, it has not been revoked, amended, complemented or replaced yet. Decree 54/2020 also revokes all provisions contrary to those provided in it.

 

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

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

Accordingly, measures were ordered inter alia (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, in accordance with our best interpretation, 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; and
  • 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 route to achieve the end of the State of Alarm.

In early August 2020, Decree 54/2020 was enacted setting forth the entry into Stage II (of IV) of the route to achieve the end of the State of Alarm.

 

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 provide that the definite isolation/closing of private health centres and healers’ offices may also be ordered if a number of obligations are not complied with.

In addition, 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.