The World Health Organisation recently declared the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. The Ministry of Health has announced that from 1 February 2020 all new visitors with recent travel history to mainland China within the last 14 days will not be allowed entry into Singapore, or to transit through Singapore. The Immigration and Checkpoints Authority also suspended the issuance of all forms of new visas to those with PRC passports as well as Singapore’s status as a visa-free transit facility for those with PRC passports.

This announcement along with other international government responses to the novel coronavirus will likely have several implications on business operations, particularly for manufacturing facilities and supply chains. Companies will need to consider their obligations in response to government announcements, the level of business disruption and other commercial risks arising from the novel coronavirus, as well as the options available under their contracts, including force majeure.

Where a contract contains a force majeure clause, the touchstone is whether the novel coronavirus outbreak falls within the scope of the clause. If the contract does not include a force majeure clause or if the novel coronavirus outbreak falls outside the scope of that clause, the parties may have to ascertain whether the common law doctrine of frustration is applicable to discharge them from their contractual obligations. However, the threshold for the doctrine of frustration to apply under Singapore law is high in that it must constitute a supervening event which results in the performance of a contract being physically or legally impossible or fundamentally different from those originally undertaken.
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