Each of the African Portuguese-speaking countries of Angola, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe recently declared a national State of Emergency. States of Emergency are exceptional and temporary circumstances provided by each of the countries' respective Constitutions, in which limitations of constitutional rights and freedoms are allowed. A State of Emergency could only be declared in cases of actual or imminent aggression, serious threat, disturbance of the constitutional order, or public calamity. This Legal Update provides background and details pertaining to the exceptional and urgent measures taken in each of the countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I. Angola

The Government of Angola enacted two legal statutes dealing with the Declaration of the State of Emergency and the exceptional, temporary measures that will be enforced while such State of Emergency remains in effect, which, for now, is envisaged for 15 days subject to renewal as necessary.

The primary measures taken by the Angolan Government and applicable during the State of Emergency period include:

  • Circulation restrictions where domicile quarantine is recommended (mandatory for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or to who already suffer from a COVID-19 high-risk condition), with circulation in public areas strictly prohibited other than with respect to essential needs (either by motor vehicles or on foot);
  • Entering or exiting the country (or each province within the country) is strictly prohibited by any means, with the exception of essential goods and services, humanitarian aid and medical care;
  • Public service suspension with the exception of certain essential services, such as hospitals and pharmacies;
  • Labor protection applicable to vulnerable people and other labor rules where certain groups of at-risk individuals are relieved from working at their usual working site and employers may not dismiss employees based on their absence to work;
  • Educational institutions should be closed;
  • Commercial activity should be closed with the exception of essential supplies such as food, banks, media, hotels, takeaway food, gas stations;
  • Industrial and agriculture to remain closed with the exception, among others, of food and beverage production, essential health products, oil industry and oilfield service providers, and mining;
  • Meetings comprising more than 50 people are prohibited;
  • All leisure, recreational and religious [gatherings are prohibited];
  • All deadlines applicable to related to any litigation are suspended; and
  • Expiration dates applicable to licenses and personal documents (including visas) are suspended.

II. Mozambique

The State of Emergency was declared in Mozambique on March 30, 2020, by President Felipe Nyusi. The State of Emergency started at 12:00 a.m. on April 1, 2020, initially with a 30-day term, which may be renewed for three successive 30-day periods.

In Mozambique, the State of Emergency is an exceptional and temporary circumstance provided by the Mozambican Constitution, in which limitations of constitutional rights and freedoms are allowed. It could only happen in cases of actual or imminent: (i) aggression; (ii) serious threat or disturbance of the constitutional order; or (iii) public calamity, as the COVID-19 pandemic. It is from competence of the President of the Republic and it is done through a Declaration addressed to the nation, which is later approved by the Parliament (Assembly of the Republic).

The primary measures taken by the Mozambican Government and applicable during the State of Emergency period include:

  • Suspension of issuance entry visas and cancellation of visas already issued;
  • Limitations imposed on the internal movement of people in any part of the national territory;
  • A ban on all types of public or private events, except for unavoidable State issues;
  • Closure of non-essential shops (including entertainment) or, where applicable, a reduction in activity;
  • Reduction of public passenger transportation and markets;
  • Adoption of fiscal, monetary and foreign exchange measures to assist the private sector in light of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Closure of [international] borders, except for State interest and for the transportation of goods by duly accredited operators and for health-related situations; and
  • Requirement of mandatory quarantine for all persons who have recently traveled outside the country or have had contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

III. Sao Tome and Principe

The State of Emergency was declared in Sao Tome and Principe on March 17, 2020, by President Evaristo Carvalho. The State of Emergency started at 8:00 a.m. on April 19, 2020, initially with a 15-day term, renewable for successive periods of 15 days up to 90 days.

In Sao Tome and Principe, the State of Emergency is an exceptional and temporary circumstance provided by the Sao Tomean Constitution, in which limitations of constitutional rights and freedoms are allowed. It could happen in cases of the need for the urgent use of measures to prevent, control and contain risks, damages and jeopardies to public order and health, as the COVID-19 pandemic. It may be declared by the President of the Republic after authorization of the Parliament (National Assembly) and was later formalized by Presidential Decree No 03/2020.

The primary measures taken by the Sao Tomean Government and applied during the State of Emergency period include:

  • A prohibition applicable to any foreign citizens entering the country;
  • A requirement of mandatory home quarantine for all national and foreign resident citizens who return to the country duly accompanied by health agents and police authorities;
  • Authorization of entry of technical and governmental missions, by invitation of the State of Sao Tome, [following confirmation of a negative] COVID-19 screening test carried out at the airports of origin;
  • A prohibition on all charter flights at the airports of Sao Tome and Principe and docking of cruise ships in its ports;
  • All supply chain needs for hospital materials and consumables, on an emergency basis, will be taken care of by chartered flights, in the absence of commercial flights;
  • A prohibition on disembarkation of crew and passengers at the ports from cargo, fishing and pleasure ships;
  • Closure of all public and private schools in the country;
  • A prohibition on all public gatherings for cultural, recreational, religious, sporting and entertainment purposes; and
  • The suspension of issuance and assignment of diplomatic and service passports to State agents, except for emergency situations, duly validated by the Prime Minister.

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This article provides information and comments on legal issues and developments of interest. The foregoing is not a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter covered and is not intended to provide legal advice. Readers should seek specific legal advice before taking any action with respect to the matters discussed herein.