El Salvador: Special Transitional Law to contain the COVID-19 Pandemic

LEGISLATIVE DECREE 757: On January 23rd, 2021, the President of the Salvadoran Congress published this Legislative Decree, which aims to establish provisions for the care, management, and comprehensive control of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the epidemic areas subject to sanitary control, ensuring freedom of movement, the right to work, respect for human rights, respect for democratic institutions and the comprehensive health of the population. Likewise, to follow up on the measures that allow the continuity of work, administrative and economic activities in the public and private sector, for the prevention and mitigation of the risks of contagion. Legislative Decree 757 comes into force on January 23rd, 2021, and its effects will end after 8 months, until September 22nd, 2021.   

Below we have included a summary of the measures adopted by the Legislative Decree 757:

 

I. COMPETENT AUTHORITY

The Ministry of Health shall be the governing body of the National Integrated Health System and shall be responsible for the control of the Pandemic:

  1. Coordinate and execute actions for compliance with the provisions of the law and the resolutions of the Supreme Court.
  2. Develop and implement a National Plan for Prevention, Containment and Timely Response to the pandemic.

II. EPIDEMIC ZONES SUBJECT TO SANITARY CONTROL

The Ministry of Health is authorized to classify epidemic zones with a radius of one kilometer around, with the sole purpose of focusing measures such as obtaining tests, being able to decree only individual quarantine, with home quarantine prevailing. Specifically, only to concrete individuals infected by the SARS-Co-2 virus or those who have been exposed to it, based on reliable scientific and medical grounds.

 

III. PROVISION OF MEDICINES AND SUPPLIES

The State must guarantee medical care and the supply of medicines free of charge.

Importers of medical supplies and pharmaceutical companies may import and distribute COVID-19 tests. These tests must comply with the technical requirements approved by international agencies such as the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and EMA (European Medicines Agency). Local test providers must notify the Ministry of Health of the results obtained.

 

IV. RISK PREVENTION IN THE WORKPLACE

General Measures

  1. Physical distance:
  2. Staggered scheduling of entrances and exits. Avoid the use of biometric devices or written methods to control assistance.
  3. Organize the work to allow a physical distance of at least one and a half meters. In areas that do not allow the required distance, protective barriers must be installed.
  4. Reduce face-to-face activities, making greater use of electronic media.
  5. In compliance with the law, adjustments may be made to work schedules and working hours to avoid large concentrations, both, in the workplace and on public transport.
  6. Intensify the order and cleanliness of workplaces, promoting a culture of cleaning at least twice a day.
  7. Formulation of a specific training, dissemination, and promotion program for COVID-19 prevention measures, training top management and workers on these measures.
  8. Use of personal protective equipment to be provided free of charge by the employer to the worker.

Implementation of work arrangements

The employer shall organize the work in such a way as to reduce the number of workers to avoid the spread of the virus, such as:

  1. Promote home-office within the workers, providing them with appropriate tools.
  2. Rotating shifts to limit the number of workers in the same work environment.
  3. Adjustable working days and schedules, with the possibility of agreeing to work up to three compensatory hours per day, to make up for the hours of the fifth and sixth working days.

The employer shall evaluate the need for field work, and if necessary, shall provide updated information on the zones of virus spread and recommendations on its prevention.

 

Other measures to be implemented in the workplace.

  1. Promote frequent and thorough hand washing.
  2. Promote the use of a permanent face masks.
  3. Inform workers that they should not go to the workplace if they or a member of their family group has any of the following symptoms: fever, tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea.
  4. If the worker has had direct contact with a person confirmed with the disease, he/she must inform the Occupational Health and Safety Committee of the company, who must go to the corresponding health facility so that the doctor can determine the diagnosis and the corresponding treatment.
  5. Workstations must be separated from each other, at a minimum distance of one point five to two meters.
  6. Provide all personnel with face masks, which should be discarded periodically, taking into consideration its quality and specifications.
  7. Disinfect workstations twice a day. Place alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers at the personnel access entrance, restroom entrance and at each workstation.
  8. Temperature should be taken for all personnel and visitors.
  9. Distribute mealtimes to avoid overcrowding.
  10. Restrict the use of elevators to a maximum of half their capacity.
  11. Eliminate the use of biometric fingerprint devices as a mechanism for controlling schedules or signing general attendance lists.
  12. Limit access to sales rooms to one person per family group.
  13. Place disinfectant mats at all entrances to sanitize the soles of shoes.
  14. Establish a place with an adequate and labeled deposit to dispose face masks and gloves.

The circulation of public and private passenger transportation is authorized, as well as the transportation of cargo, keeping due sanitary and social distancing protocols.

The continuity of all types of companies is expressly protected. The closing of establishments without a prior cause and legal procedure is prohibited.

 

V. SALVADORANS STRANDED IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES DUE TO COVID-19 MEASURES.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall guarantee diplomatic, consular, and humanitarian assistance to Salvadorans who are abroad due to COVID-19 measures, not being able to prevent them from entering the national territory. The Ministry of Health shall perform the corresponding tests free of charge. 

 

VI. TRANSPARENCY

The Law of Access to Public Information, its regulations and guidelines are fully applicable and may be requested and delivered by digital means.

The heads of the different Ministries and presidents of Autonomous Institutions shall submit every month to the Salvadoran Congress a detailed and systematic report on the execution of the funds used, procurement processes and contracting of goods, works and services, regardless of their source of financing.

The Government Accountability Office shall have unrestricted access to all information related to acts and contracts associated to the pandemic.

 

VII. AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS

The Government and municipalities will carry out an awareness campaign on sanitary measures. Also, the number of tests performed, and people infected should be informed. 

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