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What is my legal position if emergency legislation to tackle the outbreak makes performance of a contract illegal or impossible?

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to develop, we have seen many countries begin to implement emergency procedures and legislation in an attempt to control the spread of the disease.

These have included bans on gatherings and public events, closures of shops, bars, restaurants and public spaces, and full lockdowns which restrict all but key workers to their homes except in certain limited circumstances.

This has a direct impact on businesses and their ability to operate. So what happens if a contract becomes impossible to perform because of emergency legislation?

For example:

  • If you are a hospitality business, you have agreed to host an event, and gatherings are prohibited
  • If you are a manufacturer or service provider, and your staff are required to remain at home, making performance of the contract impossible