Lawmakers passed the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Restoration (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例) yesterday, providing for a NT$60 billion (US$1.97 billion) special budget to help businesses and workers, and it was immediately sent to the Presidential Office, where President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) signed it into law.
The 19-article act stipulates penalties and fines for breaking quarantine, hoarding essential materials, compensation for furloughed workers and tax breaks for companies and organizations affected by the viral outbreak and those that pay employees under quarantine or on leave to care for quarantined family members.
The act is retroactive to Jan. 15 and is to be valid until June 30 next year, except articles 12 through 16, which took effect after the act was ratified yesterday.
Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times
People who are furloughed as a result of being placed under quarantine — at home or government-designated buildings — as well as people who need to take leave to take care of quarantined family members, but are not paid by their employers, have up to two years to request compensation from health authorities.
Employers — including government agencies and institutions, legal institutions, schools, companies and civic groups — should grant disease prevention leave to quarantined workers, and must not count them — or employees on leave to care for quarantined relatives — as absent without leave, force them to file for leave for any other reason, cancel their attendance bonus or deduct days off they have earned.
Employers who break this rule can be fined between NT$50,000 and NT$1 million.
Employers who pay these employees their salaries would receive income tax deductions of up to twice the salary payout, with the application process to be defined by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) and the Ministry of Finance, the act states.
People who break quarantine at government-designated sites would be subject to a fine of between NT$200,000 and NT$1 million, whereas those who break home quarantine would be fined between NT$100,000 and NT$1 million.
Among other measures, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) can film or photograph people who breach quarantine or people confirmed to have COVID-19, publish their personal information, or take any other measures necessary to contain the spread of the virus, the act states.
People who spread rumors or disinformation about COVID-19 to the extent that it harms the public interest would face a maximum prison term of three years and a possible fine up to NT$3 million.
Governments at all levels have the authority to expropriate privately owned land, buildings, medicine, equipment, transport, waste processing facilities on the order of the CECC, and people who refuse to comply with such expropriations would face a fine of between NT$50,000 and NT$1 million.
People who hoard or attempt to hoard equipment or medicines deemed necessary for disease prevention, as published by the health ministry, would face a prison term of up to five years and a possible fine of up to NT$5 million.
Medical workers and disease-prevention effort personnel are to receive subsidies and are to be given extra compensation should they fall ill or die as a result of their work, including, in cases of fatalities, health ministry subsidises for their children’s education.
The act is to be funded by a special budget of no more than NT$60 billion allocated from surplus revenue from prior fiscal years or loans.
The Executive Yuan is to deliver a written report to the Legislative Yuan on the use of the special budget and the COVID-19 situation three months after the act is ratified, while the premier is to give an oral report at the legislature six months after its ratification.
More details on how to carry out the relief measures stipulated by the new law are to be drafted and presented to the Cabinet.
Additional reporting by CNA and staff writer
921 EARTHQUAKE: The magnitude 7.3 quake left 2,456 people dead and 10,718 injured, while 53,661 houses were fully destroyed and 53,024 houses damaged The Central Weather Bureau yesterday received about 50,000 views on Facebook after it posted the data that it collected on Sept. 21, 1999, when the nation was devastated by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake. The data showed that the 921 Earthquake hit the nation at 1:47am, with the epicenter being 7km southwest of the bureau’s quake detection center in Nantou County’s Yuchi Township (魚池) at a depth of 8km. The quake left 2,456 people dead and 10,718 injured, while 53,661 houses were fully destroyed and 53,024 houses damaged, with the cost of the damage estimated at NT$300 billion (US$10.8 billion at the current
British newspaper The Mail on Sunday reported that Prince Charles met with Bruno Wang (汪家興), a Taiwanese fugitive who describes himself as a Chinese philanthropist and donated ￡500,000 (US$683,522) to the prince’s charity, the Prince’s Foundation. The newspaper reported that Wang is wanted in Taiwan on charges related to money laundering and being a fugitive from justice, allegations he denies, and drew comparisons between Wang and the Russian banker Dmitry Leus. Investigation and cooperation with foreign authorities have found that Bruno Wang’s father, Andrew Wang (汪傳浦), had stashed proceeds from a scandal involving the procurement of Lafayette frigates in 61 bank accounts,
AT ODDS: The KMT called on the government to seek bilateral dialogue with Beijing to resolve the issue that led to the ban on custard apple and wax apple imports Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials and lawmakers yesterday condemned China’s sudden ban on imports of custard apples and wax apples from Taiwan as “obvious political retaliation,” while the opposition called for a scientific investigation into Beijing’s claim to have found pests in imports of the fruits. China earlier yesterday announced a ban on the importation of the two fruits from today, citing repeated discoveries of Planococcus minor, a type of mealybug. The announcement follows a similar ban on Taiwanese pineapples imposed in February. At least Beijing gave a few days’ notice when it banned pineapple imports, an unnamed government official said yesterday. This time
BY OTHER MEANS: China could see CPTPP membership as a means of circumventing trade restrictions imposed by the US, amid an ongoing trade dispute between them The US could invoke a clause in its trade agreement with Canada and Mexico to block China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a government official said yesterday. Under Article 32.10 of the Exceptions and General Provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), if either Canada or Mexico enter a free-trade agreement with a nonmarket economy — such as China — the US could withdraw from the agreement. “If that clause applies to multilateral free-trade agreements such as the CPTPP — which Mexico and Canada are members of — that might be cause for the two