The mysterious new virus first hit the headlines in late 2019, with several cases of viral pneumonia emerging in Wuhan, China. Less than three months later, the new coronavirus has infected over 116,000 people worldwide and caused more than 4,000 deaths. Economies and public health systems alike are showing signs of stress. Travel restrictions, event cancellations, and sick and self-isolating workforces are causing difficulties for businesses across the globe, many of which are now unable to perform contracts in the manner agreed with their contractual counterparties. In this note, we consider some of the English law contractual provisions which may be engaged by the coronavirus epidemic, including clauses on ‘force majeure’ and on material adverse changes.
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