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Anvisa publishes guidelines for embarkation of crew

In order to set forth best practice on crew change in face of the pandemic, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) published guidelines and necessary procedures for embarkation and disembarkation of crew members of vessels and platforms in Brazil.

The text compiles guidelines on screening crew members on a work schedule and preventive measures for embarkation and disembarkation of symptomatic and asymptomatic crew members. The following guideline has been published by Anvisa.

Care of the crew on vessels and platforms

One of the essential measures is the screening of the crew, before the start of the work schedule, to identify possible cases of individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

The guideline states that crew members must therefore comply with a 14-day quarantine at home or in a hotel before embarking on vessel/platform. In those 14 days they will have their health monitored and, if they show respiratory symptoms or fever, they should be prevented from boarding.

The document also lists measures for the disembarkation of symptomatic and asymptomatic crew members, as well as the use of rapid tests, in addition to presenting tables with guidelines in the form of summary topics on home quarantine, quarantine in hotels, guidelines for mandatory isolation and hygiene procedures for the means of transport of those suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19.

As already informed in our previous updates the disembarkation of foreing crewmembers in Brazil remains prohibited until the end of May, except in cases of direct repatriation or for medical assistance.

See the full text of the guideline here.

Electronic Insurance Regulations Issued

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Insurance Authority recently published the Insurance Authority Board of Directors’ Resolution No. 18 of 2020 on Electronic Insurance Regulations dated 27 April 2020 (“the Regulation”). The first draft of these regulations was published in January 2019, and after public consultation and discussion, a revised draft was published in December 2019, which has now been finalised. The Regulations and the timing of it are very relevant in the current circumstances, i.e. the impact of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures by the government, marketing, and solicitation of insurance by physical means is at an all-time low.

The term electronic has been widely defined as anything relating to technology having electrical, digital, magnetic, wireless, visual, electromagnetic, automated, optical or similar capabilities. The scope of the Regulations extend to all electronic and smart insurance operations carried out on the internet address of the company, social media such as Facebook, Linkedin, multimedia such as YouTube, Instagram, blogs, applications such as google doc, Wiki, AI-based systems, text messages, instant chat channels, smart applications, etc.

All insurance companies and related businesses such as insurance agents, actuary, broker, surveyor, insurance consultant, carrying out operations through electronic mode, require prior approval from the Insurance Authority. The application for such approval must be accompanied by an action plan for electronic operations, approved by the Board, and contain analysis of the risk, projected volume and contingency plan for the electronic operations.

Life insurance policies with investment components cannot be transacted online, while the sale of life insurance policies with standard underwriting (less the investment component), such as term life is allowed. Health and general lines of business on property and liability risk, including marine cargo insurance can all be sold online and are subject to the Regulations.

The website of the insurance companies must be maintained by the IT department of the company, but if the management of such a website is being outsourced to a third-party, then prior approval of the Insurance authority must be obtained in this regard. Insurers currently use multiple online platforms for online marketing and selling, often procured through third-party entities. The intent of the Regulations is to capture and regulate, where possible all such third-party entities who are engaged in insurance distribution.

The Regulations also put much impetus on provisions of information security and also requires that storage of data must be in the UAE. It is however not clear whether the Regulations require any Cloud server to be based within the UAE.

In addition, the Regulations recognise that the electronic platforms and systems of the companies may not be developed enough to carry out these operations and hence allow outsourcing of electronic operations for this purpose. The Regulations also allow usage of third-party websites for sale of insurance but require the prior consent of the Insurance Authority to be obtained for any such arrangements.

The Regulations also recognise, for the first time, the “Price Comparison Websites” and interestingly state that only an insurance broker can deal with a price comparison website. The Regulations also require Price Comparison Websites to be registered with the Insurance Authority and a copy of the agreement signed between Insurance Broker and Price Comparison Websites must be shared with the Insurance Authority. The prerequisites for registration of Price Comparison websites has also been listed in the Regulations but state that the application for registration must be made in accordance with the applicable regulations, implying that the Insurance Authority may be issuing further regulation on Price Comparison Websites shortly.

The Regulations state that the provisions shall apply from the date of publication of Regulations in the official gazette, but also allow insurance companies and insurance-related professions a time period of 6 months from the date of publication in the official gazette to align their position and operations with the Regulations.

While the recognition of Price Comparison Websites is a step in the right direction from the UAE Insurance Authority given the global trends in this regard, the requirement for a Price Comparison Website to deal only through a broker creates an extra layer of regulatory requirement and therefore unnecessary costs, the benefit of which could have been passed on to end customers in the absence of such requirement. Nonetheless, insurance markets globally have noticed a surge in demand for insurance policies through online mode and therefore this Regulation brings much-needed clarity, which will help in further growth of the UAE insurance market.

COVID-19: Repatriation of foreigners

Due to the pandemic of the new coronavirus, the arrival of foreigners in Brazil by sea is restricted until the end of May. Currently, the entry of foreigners is authorised in two situations: for emergency medical care or for return to the country of origin by air.

Landing for repatriation is subject to authorisation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MRE) and must be accompanied by Anvisa and the Federal Police. Understand how the repatriation process works in these cases:

Company responsibilities

The company responsible for the vessel (such as carrier or shipping agent) shall be responsible for the stay of the foreigner in Brazil in addition of having to organise the repatriation proceedings.

The company will need to carry out a formal consultation with the MRE for disembarkation and repatriation and to arrange all that is related to flights, dates and times. According to Technical Note 86/2020, the entire travel, accommodation and air transportation procedure must be provided by the company.

How to apply for repatriation

The company must provide the MRE with basic information, such as the location of foreigners, with reference to the vessel or quarantine hotel, the number of people to be repatriated and the date of the operation, with indication of flights and departure times. On the other hand, with the closing of the borders, the MRE will confirm whether the country of destination of the crew member will allow his return.

Definition of communication flow for the repatriation of foreigners in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic:

1. Report

Considering the implementation of restrictive movement measures, in the face of the new coronavirus pandemic (SARSCoV-2), it is necessary to define a specific flow to communicate the repatriation operations of foreigners who are in Brazilian territory.

2. Analysis

In this document we present the procedures for communication regarding the repatriation of foreigners who are on board vessels or remain in quarantine in hotels, after disembarking from vessels or connecting flights and/or stopover in Brazil.

The actions involving the repatriation operations were agreed in the Executive Interministerial Group on Public Health Emergency of National and International Importance – GEI-ESPII, instated by Decree nº 10.211, of January 30, 2020.

It is up to the company responsible for the stay and accompaniment of the foreigner, to organise the repatriation operation, solving the questions related to flights, dates and times. In addition, the company must consult with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – MRE (Secretariat for National Sovereignty and Citizenship Affairs – Tel: + 5561-2030-8733, e-mail [email protected]).

The formal position of the MRE on the possibility of repatriation will be forwarded to Anvisa’s International Affairs Advisory (AINTE/Anvisa) through the electronic mail [email protected].

The authorisation for the repatriation operation, issued by the MRE, must contain, at least, the following information: location of the foreigners (with the name of the vessel and its berth or the name of the hotel where they remain in quarantine and their location), number of foreigners which will be repatriated and the date of the repatriation operation. The responsible company must also present more detailed information, signalling the airport of departure for the repatriation flight(s), with the times of the flights.

After receiving a formal response from the MRE on the repatriation operation, AINTE will forward it to the General Management of Ports, Airports, Borders and Customs Enclosures (GGPAF) and Infrastructure Management, Means of Transport and Traveller in PAF (GIMTV) for sending to Coordination of Health Surveillance in PAF (CVPAF) that will accompany the operation.

3. Conclusion

The defined communication flow aims to ensure the pace and security of the foreigners’ repatriation process.

Spicy trademark suit over descriptive marks

Trademark law protects a trademark if it is primarily unique and non-descriptive of the goods or services for which it is being used. For example, you cannot register the mark Computer to sell computers or computer related products, you have to name it differently, such as Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Ubuntu etc. This is one of the basic tenets of trademark law.

Sky Enterprise Private Limited (“Sky Enterprise”) is engaged in the business of processing, manufacturing and marketing of various types of spices, condiments and masalas (mixture of spices). It has, inter alia, registered the marks “Star Zing”, “Black Chinese Pepper Masala” and “White Chinese Pepper Masala”, in Class 30 for spices. A cursory glance at these marks would portray that Star Zing is the brand and the other marks are describing the different Masalas sold under this brand. However, Sky Enterprise, thought differently. According to them, the terms “Black Chinese Pepper Masala” and “White Chinese Pepper Masala” were so closely associated with their brand, such that the customers could identify products described in this manner only with Star Zing. Sky Enterprise filed a suit against proprietor, Abaad Masala which was found to be using the marks viz., “Black Chinese Pepper Masala” and “White Chinese Pepper Masala” along with its brand name AMZ on their masala packets. Sky Enterprises alleged that the use of these terms amounted to infringement of its rights in the trademark.

The Defendant argued that the words ‘Black Chinese Pepper Masala’ and ‘White Chinese Pepper Masala’ are used by the Defendant in its trade dress, just as in the case of the Plaintiff, for identifying or indicating the kind, quality, and intended purpose of the goods.

The Court held that the defendant may use the words ‘White Chinese Pepper Masala’ and ‘Black Chinese Pepper Masala’ however, not in this particular sequence. It may use these words in some other sequence or in combination with some other words. However, this particular combination was associated distinctively with the Plaintiff, and it being the registered proprietor of the marks, was entitled to protection.

This case goes against the conventional notion of not allowing descriptive marks to be registered in the first place, let alone protecting them in an action for infringement.

COVID-19 pandemic in Greece by Serafim Sotiriadis

Greece, among most of the countries in the world, was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The Greek Government gradually took necessary measures and, ultimately, forced the country to a general “lockdown” on 23 of March. This led most of the businesses to temporarily suspend their operations and activities, while, at the same time, they were allowed to suspend the employment contracts without being required to pay salaries or damages and cover social insurance obligations. As a general measure, the country undertook the obligation to pay 800 Euros per employee whose contract was suspended.

Despite being absolutely necessary for the confrontation of the pandemic outbreak, the measures had dramatic consequences for the businesses and the Greek economy in general. In regards with the businesses, the most negative impact was the drastic fall of their turnovers and consequently their inability to perform their debt obligations, even for financially healthy companies. For this reason, the Greek Government has proceeded to the announcement of new measures, of financial nature this time, with a purpose to keep Greek businesses, to the extent possible, intact from the impact of the “lockdown” or at least to restrict the negative consequences.

Measures announced to be taken from May 2020

The Greek Government announced on 28th of April the undertaking of financial measures in order to relieve the Greek businesses and employees that were hit by Covid-19 outbreak and support the recommencement of the economy. The most important measures in relation to businesses are:

  • Financial aid to the Greek SMEs through loans granted by the Greek State that will be repaid in the next years with minimum interest rate based on each company’s performance. The total value of the aid will be 1 billion Euros, while each company will not receive more than 500.000 Euros. The main criteria require, first, the companies’ turnover to decrease due to Covid-19 outbreak and, second, the companies not to proceed to lay-offs.
  • Financial aid to the Greek SMEs through grant regarding business loans interest payments for a 3-month period (April, May & June 2020), provided that these companies were still performing on their debt obligations in relation to these loans and they have not proceeded to lay-offs.
  • Starting from May 2020, the Greek companies will be able to receive business loans by the Greek banks up to the amount that correspond to the 25% of their turnover with Greek State guarantees.
  • Suspension of VAT and assessed tax debt payments to the Greek State, however if a company pays the April 2020 instalment, a 25% discount is provided. Again, one of the necessary requirements is for the applying companies to retain the employment positions.

Considering that most of these applications can be made electronically through platforms, our law firm assist our clients in the electronic filling and submission of these applications. It, also, uses its contacts to get additional information, if needed, by making using of the available electronic means, so that the applications are properly filled. In these harsh times, the firm provides its advisory services with the best possible manner to assist the companies – clients, especially those hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Greece’s Economy

These liquidity measures are expected to relieve the Greek businesses which were forced to stop operating for more than one month (11 March 2020 – May 2020) and are now gradually being able to get back to their activities. The measures are considered to be of vital importance if taken into account that the country had just exited an 8-year financial recession implementing harsh economic re-adjustment and austerity measures. Except this, tourism constitutes the backbone of Greece’s economy and the largest contributor to its GDP and it is expected to be severely affected for 2020, as Covid-19 crisis broke out just before the summer.

According to the recently published IMF’s World Economic Outlook report, the projections for 2020 have been substantially altered, as the “lockdown” applied by the most of the Eurozone countries will have immense impact on their economic status. In particular, Greece is expected to lose approximately 10% out of its GDP for 2020, in contrary to the 2.2% GDP increase that was projected for the same year before the coronavirus outbreak. However, the country is forecasted to return to growth in the next year, to 5.1% for 2021. Despite the deeper economic impact for 2020, Greece’s recovery is projected to be more dynamic than other economies, such as Spain’s and Italy’s. This fact is justified by the timely actions of the Greek Government in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the periodic consequences of the tourism’s underperformance for 2020.

In the aftermath of the pandemic

The gradual lifting of the pandemic measures, starting from the 4th of May, earmarks the return to “normality” which will not be the same as known before. The epidemiologists warn that the pandemic is not over yet and the perils of another outbreak cannot be ignored. For this, the Greek Government has set, alongside the economic relief measures, certain rules in order to restrict the possibilities for the pandemic to break out again. These measures purport to minimise the personal contacts that could lead to the spread of the virus.

Among these rules, the most important for the companies are:

  • Flexible schedules must be followed for the next months, so that people attend their working place alternately.
  • Teleworking must be encouraged, where possible, to avoid unnecessary contacts.

Our law firm, trying to be in line with the recent legislation, has applied new methods in the working environment and in the manner, it delivers its legal services to our clients by making use the capabilities that technology offers today. Indicatively, the firm conduct their usual internal meetings only by electronic means through live video calls, while meetings with clients and fellow advisors are made through teleconferences maintaining the level of the services in the same standards as before. Also, the firm in order to protect its personnel applies a repeating working schedule enabling a certain number of associates/partners to attend the office each time, while in person meetings with clients are scheduled, where absolutely necessary, applying the hygiene rules.

Switzerland vs. COVID-19

Like all other countries, Switzerland has been, and still is, affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cases were as numerous as those in the most affected countries. However, the number of victims is significantly lower, probably because of the quality of the Swiss health care system and better organisation and implementation of government measures.

The Swiss Federal Council (Government) is currently undergoing a gradual exit from the lockdown which will take place in three phases, on 28 April, 11 May and 9 June.

These measures seem all the more credible because containment has never been complete in  Switzerland: non-food stores and pharmacies were closed, as were restaurants, but outside these sectors population was authorised to move and work.

In terms of economy, the closure measures have, as everywhere, caused a great deal of damage and a drop in GDP of approximately 8% is expected in 2020.

This is the result of both the measures taken and the fact that, as the Swiss economy is very integrated with the economies of its neighbours, the loss of purchasing power will be felt in Switzerland.

However, GDP is generally expected to rise by the same amount in 2021, according to projections by most economists.

Assistance measures taken

The federal government and the cantons have also taken measures to support companies and employees.

These compensatory measures include direct aid to companies which had to close or those whose turnover has been significantly reduced, intervention in the payment of commercial rents, loans, loans guaranteed by the public authorities, easier access to temporary unemployment, etc.

It is recognised that these measures have been effective, although they are insufficient to compensate for the losses suffered by businesses. In addition, the Federal Government and the cantons have been very reactive, with aid sometimes being granted within only two or three days.

The future of the Swiss economy

As is the case everywhere, lockdown measures, although not comprehensive, will have medium- and long-term implications.

However, one of the important advantages of Switzerland is that the public authorities were very lightly in debt and therefore have a significantly higher borrowing capacity than most of the other European countries. In addition, the federal budget has been in surplus in recent years, and the state wisely refused to listen to those who recommended the spending of the budget bonus.

Therefore, Switzerland has now a greater capacity to intervene without jeopardising the balance of public finances and without requiring new taxes from taxpayers.

Residence in Switzerland

This is probably one of the reasons why the establishment of a company in Switzerland, or the acquisition of a Swiss residence, is to be recommended today, provided that it corresponds to reality.

There is a concern that some other countries, including in Europe, will take very heavy fiscal measures, either at the end of this year or in the following years, in order to service their very heavy 2020 expenditure incurred.

It is highly unlikely that Switzerland will be forced to take equivalent measures.

It is therefore more than probable that in the coming years there will be additional advantages in establishing in Switzerland, not because of an improvement in the Swiss tax system, but because, compared to that, the taxation of neighbouring countries will be even higher than it is today.