Market Insights 14 min read

COVID-19 Regulatory Developments: Update 4

Apr 27, 2020 COVID-19 Regulatory Developments: Update 4

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in countries adapting their regulatory landscape to accommodate and mitigate the unprecedented disruptions to companies and individuals. Through regular updates, Compliance & Risks will closely monitor the situation and inform our clients of the latest global regulatory developments in relation to COVID-19 relevant to their topics, along with updates on items which may be of interest outside our topics.

Chemicals in Products

On 28 February 2020, the Californian Department of Toxic Substances Control issued a 45-day notice to list carpets and rugs containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), as a Priority Product under the Safer Consumer Product Regulations. While the Department was seeking public comments on the Product-Chemical Profile on PFASs in Carpets and Rugs by 13 April 2020, the comment period has been extended for an additional 45-days. The public hearing for this regulation, originally scheduled on 13 April 2020, is also postponed until further notice and will be conducted as a virtual hearing. The Department’s announcement can be accessed here. Public comments shall be submitted online via CalSAFER.

Impact to Data Protection

The use of digital tools as a means of tracing people’s movement to enforce lock down measures and detect new cases of COVID-19 inevitably encroaches upon the protection of personal data and confidential information. Amid this concern, the EU is increasing its arsenal of guidance documents. On 15 April 2020, the EU adopted recommendations towards a ‘toolbox’ for the use of ‘contact tracing and warning’ mobile applications. Shortly after this, the European Commission published another guidance document on apps supporting the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to data protection. This guidance document sets out eight features and requirements that app functionalities should satisfy, in order to comply with the Data Protection Regulation and the ePrivacy Directive. It is worth noting that it puts a strong emphasis on proportionality, data minimization, the protection of an individual’s consent and the control and the need to design digital apps in such a way that national health authorities remain the data controller.

Impact to Consumer Protection

El Salvador revised Article 44 of its Consumer Protection Law as a result of COVID-19. In essence, the decree establishes that the marketing or selling of goods or services at prices or quantities higher than the maximum price set by the Consumer Protection Office will be penalized.

Impact to European Climate Change Policy

In a Briefing paper published on 14 April 2020, the European Commission analyzed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the EU’s climate actions, and more specifically the European Green Deal. The European Green Deal sets out the growth strategy that the EU has committed to follow to build a prosperous, yet carbon neutral, society ‘with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy’. The outbreak of COVID-19 occurred at a critical time where the EU is in the process of assessing and revising its climate-energy targets for 2030. Stimulus programmes will be necessary to re-boost the economy leading some governments to consider softening the ambitions of the European Green Deal. Notwithstanding the expected economic downturn, the European Commission stands for the position that the European Green Deal is not incompatible with the economic recovery and may instead provide a framework for the design of recovery plans in the aftermath of COVID-19.

EH&S: Environment

Recognizing that the proper management of waste is an essential service underpinning public welfare, the European Commission has developed insightful guidance on waste management. The guidance is intended to assist Member States and waste operators in ensuring the continuity of their waste management activities, including separate waste collection and recycling.

Following the same line, the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment has exceptionally authorized temporary exemptions from the Waste Regulation to receive and store increased volume of hazardous waste during COVID-19. Disposal operators, including facilities managed by municipalities, are authorized to receive up to 30% more hazardous waste in 2020. This measure only applies to facilities which are already authorized to process hazardous waste under a special permit or regulatory measure. Prior to receiving and handling increased quantity of waste, disposal facilities shall carry out a risk assessment and ensure that the requirements of the Waste Regulation for the safe handling and processing of hazardous waste are satisfied. While the Regulation is valid until 31 December 2020, the temporary increase in the amount of hazardous waste that can be stored is only permitted until 1 September 2020.

EH&S: Occupational Health and Safety

The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued additional interim enforcement guidance to help employers comply with the occupational illness and injury recording and reporting requirements of Standard 29 CFR § 1904. Except in the context of health care industries, emergency response organizations and correctional institutions, the Guidance indicates that OSHA will not require employers to record cases of COVID-19, unless ‘there is objective evidence that a COVID-19 case may be work-related’ and ‘evidence was reasonably available to the employer’. For purposes of this memorandum, OSHA specifies that ‘examples of reasonably available evidence include information given to the employer by employees, as well as information that an employer learns regarding its employees’ health and safety in the ordinary course of managing its business and employees.

Likewise, the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety issued a series of guidance tip sheets for use by employers and workers in higher-risk and essential occupations, industries and services.

Transport of Dangerous Goods

In light of COVID-19, OTIF released a series of Multilateral Special Agreements postponing the expiry date of periodic inspections and tests of tanksUN multiple-element gas containers and pressure receptacles for the carriage of gases. The validity period of certain certificates issued under the Regulation concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID) has also been extended until 30 November 2020. This concerns safety adviser certificates for the transport of dangerous goods that expire between 1 March 2020 and 1 November 2020. The validity of these certificates shall be extended by five years starting from the date of their original date of expiry if their holders have passed an examination in accordance with of RID before 1 December 2020.

Impact to Import/Export Procedures

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) announced they are temporarily reducing service hours at a total of 27 locations along the Canada-United States land border in response to COVID-19. The temporary hour adjustments are in effect as of 15 April 2020 at 11:59 pm EDT. The temporary reduction of service hours will remain in place until further notice by CBSA.

On 13 April 2020, Montenegro adopted a decision approving exemptions from value added tax and custom duties on medical devices and protective equipment imported in the country. 

Breaking Developments for Medical Supplies

In response to COVID-19, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) together with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) agreed to make freely available a series of International (ISO and IEC) and European standards for critical care ventilators and protective equipment. Following the decision of the European standardization organizations, the Serbian Institute for Standardization also allowed free access to SRPS standards for protective equipment and some medical devices.

The European Chemical Agency issued compositional requirements for active chlorine released from sodium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid used in disinfectant products which are authorized in accordance with the derogations of the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR). Against this backdrop, the European Commission, ECHA, the French Ministry of Ecology and the European Biocidal Product Forum will host a webinar to provide operators with an update on COVID-19 related emergency measures and explore possibilities for further derogations under Article 55 of BPR.

The US Environmental Protection Authority continues its efforts to increase the availability of disinfectants by simplifying the process for adding registered sources of active ingredients used in surface disinfectant products. In a news release published this week, the EPA announced they would temporarily enable registrants to release disinfectant products without prior EPA approval as long as they notify the Agency of any changes in certain formulations and manufacturing facilities.

The General Customs Administration of Costa Rica is now imposing temporary export restrictions on the following products: Mono glasses, N95 masks, disposable surgical masks, nitrile gloves and disposable robes. Until further notice, companies exporting the indicated items are required to obtain an export license issued by the Ministry of Economy, industry and Commerce.