The current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is causing the world to struggle. It is clear that coronavirus is a threat to all human beings. It has also become clear that coronavirus is a threat to the health of the world economy and businesses.
On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the virus outbreak as a pandemic. The stock markets duly crashed. Governments began to prohibit certain events and close down schools. However, it is not exactly clear how big the threat is. Is COVID-19 already a “serious cross-border threa[t] to health” (article 9.2(i) GDPR)? Are German businesses permitted to ask customers, visitors and employees if they suffer from a cough or other symptoms? Are German employers permitted to send employees who have a runny nose home? Who bears the costs if commercial agreements cannot be performed or if events are canceled?
Businesses are looking to create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees, customers and business partners. During the course of the coronavirus pandemic, this will include adopting certain health-related measures. Our recent alert will answer legal questions we have been asked in the past few days and give guidance on whether or not certain measures comply with applicable laws in Germany; many of the answers will also apply in other EU countries.