Coronavirus Update: As countries start lifting lockdown, what do contractors need to know?

South Africa - Coronavirus contractors lockdown

20th May 2020

As the world continues to deal with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, many contracting hotspots are finally taking action in order to lift lockdown restrictions and get business back up and running. Knowing the latest situation in these nations is crucial for international contractors looking to take up their next assignment.

In order to help you stay up-to-date with latest developments, we have provided a round-up of the information for contractors – sourced from updates from GPA and various news sources – for some of the most popular contracting hotspots. (Please note, this information is correct as of May 15th, 2020)

Coronavirus lockdown update for contractors:

South Africa

South Africa plans to keep its major cities under tight lockdown but is preparing to ease national restrictions further this month in order to stem heavy damage that the coronavirus has caused to its economy. Here’s what contractors need to know:

President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised national address on Wednesday that “we are now preparing for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of the economy” at the end of May.

Mr Ramaphosa, who is facing rising public frustration over the slow pace of reopening after nearly two months of restrictions, said that his government also planned to consult on the possibility of keeping areas with high rates of infection under stricter measures. South Africa, which is the continents most industrialised nation, has reported more than 12,000 cases and 219 deaths to date.


Mexico’s government said 269 coronavirus-free towns will reopen next week as part of a gradual nationwide return to a “new normal”, while auto, construction and mining industries will be allowed to resume.

The phased reopening — which will follow a red, amber, yellow and green “traffic light” system — was announced a day after Mexico’s social security institute reported 555,247 jobs lost in April, the largest monthly drop in history.


As Germany emerges from lockdown, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil, is working on legislation to give employees the right to work from home even after the coronavirus abates – due to the success of many organisations during the pandemic.

Mr Heil reportedly told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, ‘Everyone who wants to and whose workplace allows it should be able to work in a home office – even when the coronavirus pandemic is over.’

An estimated 25% of Germans are now said to be working from home, in the wake of school closures and many companies are encouraging home working in an effort to prevent further spread of the novel coronavirus. This figure usually stands at around 12%.

Mr Heil, said he intended to present legislation later in the year that would anchor a right to home working in law and allow employees to work from home full time or for one or two days a week.

Olaf Scholz (SPD) – the German Finance Minister – gave his support to the idea, telling Bild am Sonntag, “The past weeks have shown how much is possible in the home office – this is a real achievement that we should not just abandon.”


With one of the highest death rates in the world – Belgium’s staggered reopening from this week is being closely watched. Emphasis is being placed on face masks. Shoppers are being advised to wear one while out and they are obligatory on public transport, where eating and drinking has been banned so people are not tempted to remove them.

Masks are being sold from vending machines in train stations and anyone not wearing one faces a 250 euro fine. Local mayors have introduced rules demanding face masks are worn on certain streets which are too narrow or busy to ensure the 1.5 metre rule is respected.


France has been gradually lifting restrictions on travel since May 11th as part of lockdown easing measures which rely on massive testing of suspected cases and contacts. People will be able to travel up to 100km (62 miles) from home – up from just one kilometre during the peak of the crisis.

French borders will remain closed until 15th June at the earliest except for trans-border EU workers or European, including British, nationals with essential family or economic reasons, such as seasonal agriculture work. Masks will be compulsory while travelling via public transport on pain of a €135 fine. In Paris, only those with a form justifying professional or other essential reasons can travel during rush hour to avoid overcrowding.

Some 100 million masks will be distributed to those who are sick, health staff and the vulnerable.  Around a million pupils will also return to classes next week in up to 85%of establishments, with priority given to health workers’ children and those with special needs and difficulties. 400,000 businesses will open but cafes, bars and restaurants will stay closed until at least June. Beaches will remain closed except if mayors and local officials agree otherwise.


Life in Israel has almost returned to normal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrating a self-declared victory over Covid-19. Hairdressers, hardware and electrical shops and restaurants have reopened, although the latter are takeaway-only. Mr Netanyahu has credited Israel’s early decision to close its borders for its comparatively low mortality and infection rates compared to the rest of the Middle East.

The country’s aviation chiefs are exploring the possibility of a “medical passport” system where citizens are allowed to travel abroad after undergoing a 45-minute coronavirus test. And Israeli scientists believe that analysing excrement in sewers will allow them to detect coronavirus hotspots and prevent a second wave.

Stay informed

While this is the current situation regarding coronavirus in these nations, things are changing every day. As authorities across the globe begin reviewing the potential to reduce lockdown restrictions, staying ahead of the latest developments is crucial for contractors operating across the globe, so we encourage all contingent workers and recruiters to pay attention to information from the relevant authorities before making any decisions.

At 6CATS, we will continue to update workers and firms should any new information arise, and there are plenty of Covid-19 related resources on our website. If there should be any interruption to your assignment or working life – we’re here to help.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or would like more information.


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