GYIAD Law Bulletin: Precautions And Measures Taken Against Covid-19 Pandemic
The historical decrease in the Baltic Dry Index which is one of the most important indicators of the world trade indicates the contraction in the world trade while the record decrease in Brent Oil prices points to a decrease in production and growth. The mentioned economic indicators show that the economic contraction caused by the Coronavirus pandemic has spread all over the world.
As a matter of fact, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (“UNCTAD”) has warned that global growth has fallen under 2% this year and accordingly the loss of the world economy would be one (1) trillion dollars. At this point, various measures have been taken by each country in terms of both the adequacy of health institutions and the national economy. Coming into play of circuit breakers in the American markets and stopping the trading of stock markets for 15 minutes, Central Bank's attempt to provide cash flow to the economy by lowering interest rates can be the examples of these measures.
In our country, a set of resources worth 100 billion Turkish Lira was created to reduce the effects of the Coronavirus with a package called “Economic Stability Shield” along with the measures taken against the threat of pandemic disease and described in detail below, in order to ensure that citizens take minimal damage from the consequences of the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy.
As in the rest of the world, the measures are taken in line with the rapid change of the acute condition in our country. We hereby wish to set out the measures taken as of the date of publication (23.03.2020 at 09.00).
I. National Economic Measures
The economic measures taken within the Coronavirus Evaluation Meeting held on 18.03.2020 by the Presidency of Turkey have been announced and an economic measure package under the name of "Economic Stability Shield" has been created which worth 100 billion Turkish Liras. As mentioned in the content of the said package, the measures taken are as follows;
- April, May and June payments of brief tax declarations and VAT withholding as well as social security premiums shall be deferred for 6 months for Retail Industry and Shopping Centres (“AVM”) (Market, buffet, grocery store, delicatessen, greengrocer, ice cream, haberdashery, butcher, construction materials sales, small household goods and white goods sales, furniture sales, home textiles, books and stationery, newspapers and magazines, shoes and clothing retail, toys , medical and orthopaedic products, pharmacy, jewellery, florist, marketers, fishermen, patisserie and bakeries, sales of personal care and cosmetic products, etc. activities for retail sale of all kinds of products, shopping malls and retailers), Iron-Steel and Metal industry (Manufacture of iron, steel, aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, tin and their sale by manufacturers) Automotive (Manufacture, wholesale and retail of all motor vehicles such as cars, trucks, vans, buses, minibuses, midi-buses, tractors, motorcycles, trailers, caravans), Logistics-Transportation (All kinds of logistics and transportation services such as air, land, railway, sea and all kinds of waterways, all kinds of urban and intercity cargo and passenger transportation, highway, tunnel and bridge management, storage and warehousing activities, airport ground services), Cinema-Theatre (All kinds of artistic activities such as theatre, opera, ballet, cinema, concert), Accommodation (Accommodation activities such as hotels, motels, pensions, holiday villages, tour operator and travel agency activities, all kinds of accommodation and related activities such as reservation services), Eating and drinking (Services for the presentation of all kinds of food and beverages such as restaurants, cafes, cafes, coffee houses, tea stoves, canteens, buffets in transportation vehicles), Textile-Garment (Manufacture and sale of all kinds of textiles and apparel, such as fabric and yarn manufacturing, manufacture of all kinds of cotton, wool, lint, fibber and fabric products, and the manufacture and sale of clothing and home textile products)
Event-Organization (Organization of shows, congresses, conferences, trade fairs and events and all kinds of events and organization activities carried out in places such as internet cafes, games, weddings and wedding halls, sports centres)
- The accommodation tax shall not be applied until November 2020.
- Easement right and revenue share payments related to hotel renting for April, May and June shall be deferred for 6 months.
- VAT rate shall be reduced from 18% to 1% in domestic airline transportation for 3 months.
- For firms whose cash flows are interrupted due to measures taken regarding COVID-19 outbreak, principal and interest payments to the banks shall be postponed for minimum 3 months and additional financial support shall be provided to those firms, if needed.
- Stock financing support shall be provided to the exporters in order to maintain capacity utilization rates during the temporary slowdown in exportation.
- For merchants and craftsmen, who will declare that their businesses are adversely affected, principal and interest payments for their credit debts to Halkbank shall be postponed for 3 months without any interest.
- Credit Guarantee Fund limit shall be increased from 25 billion Lira to 50 billion Lira and the priority for credits shall be given to the firms and small, medium sized enterprises having liquidity needs and collateral deficit due to negative effects of the latest developments.
- The credit viability amount related to the houses with a value below 500 thousand Turkish Liras is increased from 80% to 90% and the minimum advance payment is reduced to 10%.
- Annotations of “force majeure” shall be put on the credit records of firms having default in April, May and June due to the measures taken to prevent the spread of virus.
- It shall be ensured to render the flexible and remote working models regulated under the current legislation more effective.
- The period of the declarations including the payments of the deductions made at the source such as withholding has been delayed for 3 months.
- Short time work allowance will be put into action, and the procedures required to benefit therefrom shall be facilitated and accelerated. Thus, temporary income support shall be given to the employees of workplaces which suspend their activities, and the costs of their employers shall be reduced.
- Minimum wage support shall be continued.
- Eid bonus for retirees will be paid in early April 2020.
- According to the criteria set by the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Policies, it has been decided to allocate an additional 2 billion Turkish Liras for cash aid to families in need.
- In order to ensure continuity in employment, the 2-month compensatory working period shall be increased to 4 months.
- Alternative channels shall be developed against possible interruptions in global supplies, according to the priorities determined for both production and retail.
- A periodic follow-up program consisting of social and home health services has been established for the elderly over 80 years old living alone.
- Open forward rediscount loan principal and interest payments with a maturity of April, May and June 2020 are delayed to October, November and December 2020, and the maximum maturity have been extended by 1 year. Likewise, commitment closing periods of these loans have been extended by 1 year.
In addition, in line with the statement of the Association of Shopping Centers and Investors, which are among the measures that will affect the retail sector,
within the scope of the “stay home” recommendation in the Turkish Presidency statement dated 18.03.2020, a recommendation was made for the closure of shopping malls for public health, taking into account the demands of the community and the retailer. In the explanation that this recommendation decision was taken, it was stated that the necessary facilities would be provided to the shopping mall tenants regarding the "Economic Stability Shield" package announced.
I. Legal Measures
- Cessation of Execution and Bankruptcy Proceedings
Decision on the Cessation of Execution and Bankruptcy Proceedings numbered 2279 (“Decision”) is published through the Official Gazette dated March 22, 2020 and numbered 31076 within the scope of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 outbreak in our country and the Decision entered into force on the date of its publication.
Within the scope of the such Decision; in order to facilitate the applicability of the measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, all execution and bankruptcy proceedings have been ceased throughout the country excluding alimony execution proceedings from 22.03.2020 to 30.04.2020, and in this context, no execution and payment orders can be carried out, it was decided not to allow any payments orders or not to enforce & execute in junctional lien decisions.
- Short-Term Employment Allowance
In the statement made by the Minister of Family, Labor and Social Services on 22.03.2020, it was announced that applications for Short-Term Employment Allowance can be made electronically as of 23.03.2020.
Employers who have been affected adversely by the pandemic and therefore want to benefit from short-term employment, it is stated that they can make their applications by submitting the necessary documents via electronic mail address created specifically by Turkey Business Association General Directorate-Provincial Directorates and Services Centers.
- Ceasing Notification Procedures:
Various decisions are taken by the Justice Commissions of the Courthouses, considering the precautions taken by Ministry of Justice and Bar Associations, to prevent any loss of right due to lawyers working from home. Courts and Enforcement Offices decided to not to make any electronic notices whereas the Istanbul Anatolian Justice Commission decided to implement until 01.04.2020, while the Izmir Justice Commission decided to implement it until 30.03.2020. Each jurisdiction in this regard takes decisions individually, and it is important that lawyers and interested parties follow up this issue.
- Tax Office Transactions:
As of 19.03.2020, the measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus have been published by the Revenue Administration. In this context;
1- All petitions that need to be submitted before the tax office by 10.04.2020 must be submitted electronically via the Interactive Tax Office application or sent by mail. In this context; starting work notification, quitting work notification, opening branch notification, closing notification, no debt notification, obligation status document, postponement application, compromise request etc. all petitions will be sent electronically via the Interactive Tax Office's web (ivd.gib.gov.tr) or mobile application (GIB Mobil) or by mail.
2- Until 10.04.2020, declarations will be made only on the Ready Declaration System for real and non-real estate income, wages and other earnings and returns.
As it is known, the income tax returns required to be submitted until 03.03.2020 have been extended until 30.04.2020 and the income tax returns for the specified income items can be sent via the web (hazirbeyan.gib.gov.tr) or mobile applications through the Ready Disclosure System.
3- Payments regarding taxes, fees and administrative fines and valuable paper values that can be paid by credit card through the Interactive Tax Office or through contracted banks will be made through the Interactive Tax Office or through contracted banks instead of the tax office cashiers until 10.04.2020.
4- Corporate taxpayers can make their tax payments by using alternative payment channels (Interactive Tax Office, contracted banks and Post Office) instead of the Tax Office cashiers.
5- People who are not citizens of the Republic of Turkey will submit their potential tax identification number requests via the Interactive Tax Office's web application (ivd.gib.gov.tr) and the official tax identification number will be generated electronically and the official document will be presented to them through aforementioned application. Therefore, to receive a potential tax identification number people who are not citizens of the Republic of Turkey are no longer required to apply to the tax office.
In addition, the annual income tax declarations for the 2019 calendar year, which must be submitted by the end of March 31, 2020, and the payment periods of the taxes accrued on these declarations has been extended by the end of Thursday, April 30, 2020 by the Tax Procedure Law Circulars dated March 17, 2020 and numbered 125.
- Conducting Deed Transactions Online:
With the arrangement made by the General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadaster, as of 18.03.2020 the applications can be made to the Land Registry and Cadaster Offices, through the established Web-Land Registry system (https://webtapu.tkgm.gov.tr), transaction (appointment) requests (including foreign nationals) can be made online through the Alo-181 call center or at www.tkgm.gov.tr.
With the Web-Tapu and system, applications can be made online without to need to visit the Land Registry Office, and the necessary documents will be sent to the Land Registry Office via the application made online, and the visits will only be required for signing of such documents. Again, through such system, the owner can authorize other people to Access deed information and/or to submit deed applications securely or the owner can withdraw the given authority. With the Web-Tapu Registry system, it is possible to establish a declaration that states the owner has prohibited the transactions regarding the immovable property without going to the Land Registry Office in person or he/she can remove such declaration. On the other hand, documents such as Land Deed or Land Registration can be obtained through the system.
- Postponement of Hearings and Discoveries:
In the recommendation sent to the judicial authorities by the General Secretariat of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, it’s stated that; "Within the scope of the recommendations of the Coronavirus Scientific Committee established within the Ministry of Health, our courts will evaluate the postponement of trials and discoveries, and the use of SEGBİS application when deemed necessary, except for investigations and prosecutions and other issues to be considered urgent, in order not to cause any problems in the conduct of trial activities, In accordance with the recommendations of the mentioned Board, the necessary attention and care for the implementation of new measures”.
In this context, with the decision taken by the Ministry of Justice on 17.03.2020 its been decided that ; “Expense regarding the notification of hearings and discoveries postponed by the law offices and courts will be funded by expenses paid in advance; in cases where there are not sufficient expense advances and the lawsuits and works that the parties cannot freely decide upon, such expense will be funded by the Red-Handed allowance to cover the expense allowance in order to be taken from the side that should pay this expense in the future.”
- Holding Mediation Meetings by Teleconference:
Mediation Department with the announcement dated 16.03.2020 suggested that the teleconference method should be preferred in the started or ongoing mediation processes, and that the meeting day should be given towards the end of the periods specified in the law and that these meetings should be held through teleconferences.
3. Measures to Prevent the Outbreak
- Working hours of banks:
On 22.03.2020 The Banks Association of Turkey ("BAT") has made a recommendation for the working hours of all banks. With such recommendation, the working hours and customer acceptance hours of the branches and service units of the Banks that directly serve customers are determined as 12:00-17:00. Apart from this, banks can determine working and customer acceptance hours flexibly, inform the customers about the working and customer acceptance hours of the branches and service units of the banks, necessary statements can be taken for the prevention of close contact and crowded environment in the branches and service units, branches in high-risk and crowded areas can be kept out of service, continuing to provide uninterrupted service through alternative service channels for the provision of banking services through digital media are among the other decisions taken.
- Curfew for people over 65 years old and people with chronic diseases:
With the circular issued by the Ministry of Interior on 21.03.2020, citizens who are older than 65 years and citizens with low immune systems who have chronic lung disease, asthma, COPD, cardiovascular disease, kidney, hypertension and liver disease and those using drugs that disrupt the immune system they are prohibited from going out of their residence, traveling in open areas, in parks and traveling by public transportation, and are not allowed to go out on the streets after 21.03.2020, 24.00.
Citizens aged 65 and over and those with chronic illness are subject to the curfew imposed by the Circular. Citizens with chronic illnesses who are 65 years old and above, who live alone and have no relatives to help them with their needs to prevent maximization; In order to meet the basic needs, it was decided to establish Loyalty Social Support Group over the age of 65 under the chairmanship of governors / district governors.
Additional circular regarding the exceptions to be introduced within the scope of the curfew of the citizens aged 65 and over and those with chronic conditions by the Ministry of Interior have been published and sent to relevant governorships on 22.03.2020 at 01.00 AM. In this context, to ensure the continuity of public service, healthcare professionals, with the exclusion of doctors with cancer patients or patients in line for organ transplants, mayors, provincial directors, social service officers, and other public service providers as well as pharmacists have been brought under exemptions in line with the banning/restriction decisions of the district governorships.
- Flight bans:
With the announcement made by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure on 21.03.2020, it was stated that flights to 46 countries will be stopped in addition to 22 countries where the flights were previously stopped. Accordingly, as of 21.03.2020 from 17.00, more flights were halted to 46 other countries and with such ban, the number of countries that stop flights to Turkey has risen to 68.
68 countries that Turkey have shut down air traffic with the final decision are as follows;
Germany, Angola, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belgium, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Algeria, Djibouti, Chad, Czech, China, Denmark, Dominican, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Ivory Coast, Philippines, Finland, France, Guatemala , South Korea, Georgia, India, Netherlands, Iraq, Iran Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Cameroon, Canada, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Kenya, TRNC, Colombia, Kosovo, Kuwait, North Macedonia, Latvia, Lebanon, Hungary, Egypt, Mongolia, Moldova, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Norway, Uzbekistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Oman and Jordan.
Currently with Russia, Qatar and Libya which have taken unilateral decision to discontinue flights with Turkey, the number of countries that interrupted air traffic agreement has reached 71 in total. In addition, in the statement made by Turkish Airlines on 22.03.2020; It is stated that all international flights except Hong Kong, Moscow, Addis Ababa, New York and Washington were terminated from 27 March 2020 until 17 April 2020.
- Restriction on restaurants:
As of the circular issued by the Ministry of Interior on 21.03.2020, it has been decided that as of 24:00, all restaurants with or without drinks and pastry shops and similar establishments will provide their services only in takeaway and/or come-and-take manner, without allowing customers to enjoy services at the facilities. For this reason, restaurants, patisseries and similar workplaces will be allowed to lift the seating areas, and necessary actions will be taken to avoid serving customers in these areas.
- Restriction of the activities of barber, hairdressers, beauty centers:
With the Circular issued by the Ministry of Interior, it was decided to temporarily cease the activities of barbers, hairdressers and beauty centers as of 21.03.2020, due to the fact that the citizens come together and physically contact each other at such places.
- Restriction to entertainment, art, culture and social activities:
As of 17.03.2020 00:00, theater, cinema, show center, concert hall, engagement / wedding hall, restaurant / café with music / music, casino, pub, tavern, coffee shop, café, cafeteria, country garden, hookah lounge, hookah cafe , internet lounge, internet cafe, all kinds of game rooms, all kinds of indoor children's playgrounds (including shopping malls and restaurants), tea garden, association lounges, amusement park, swimming pool, Turkish bath, sauna, hot spring, massage parlor, SPA and sports centers activities were temporarily suspended.
- Education Services:
Primary, secondary and high schools were suspended for 1 week starting from 16.03.2020 whereas universities were suspended for 3 weeks. In this context, as of 23.03.2020, necessary infrastructure preparations are completed in order to continue education through internet and television channels via distance education method.
In addition, the dates of academic exams such as ALES, YDS have been postponed by ÖSYM (Student Selection and Placement Center) to a later date by updating the exam schedule.
- Limitations for public institutions:
Pregnant women, those who use the legal milk permit, people with disabilities, those who are 60 years of age and over working in public institutions and organizations are considered to be on a 12 days’ administrative leave from 16 of March. Women officers who have children in preschool and primary education are granted annual leave. In addition, the travels of public officials to abroad has been made subject to special permission.
- Research-Development (“R&D”) and Design Activities:
It is imperative that companies operating in Technology Development Zones and business' having R&D and Design Centers shall carry-out their activities regarding R&D and Design within such zones physically in order to benefit from the exemptions and incentives granted by Technology Development Zones Code numbered 469, Law on Supporting Research, Development and Design Activities numbered 5746 and related regulations.
With the press release issued by the Ministry of Industry and Technology of Republic of Turkey on 15.03.2o20, it has been announced that the techno park companies and R&D and Design Centers can continue to benefit from exemptions and incentives till the end of April 2020 by informing the Ministry of Industry and Technology monthly about the number of personnel they deem appropriate to work from home.
- Pets brought from abroad:
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has decided to suspend entry of exotic animals and invertebrates, amphibians, dogs, cats, ferrets, ornamental fish, reptiles, rodents, domestic rabbits and all birds from all countries for any purpose.