The post-holiday start date for schools from senior high and below has been pushed back two weeks to Feb. 25 due to the global spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday.
While the outbreak of the virus in China is still serious, Taiwan has not seen a local outbreak, but the center is concerned about the risk of cluster infections once students return to school, said the center’s head, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中).
“The command center’s specialist meeting suggested pushing back the start of classes to reduce the risk of clustered infections,” he said.
Extending the winter break means the first day of the new semester for levels for all schools at the senior high level and below has been pushed back from Feb. 11 to Feb. 25, Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said.
Students’ education would not suffer and the number of school days would not be cut, but the summer break would be pushed back from July 1 to July 15, Pan said.
“The dates remain the same for the Comprehensive Assessment Program for Junior High School Students exams, the Entrance Examination for Technological and Vocational Education, and the College Entrance Examination,” Pan said.
However, the examination paper-setting will be adjusted according to the postponed school schedule, so that examinees’ rights would not be affected by the policy, he added.
A new semester schedule for universities is to be discussed today at a meeting with university officials and would be announced after the meeting, Pan said.
Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) said that the rights of working parents with young children should not be harmed by the extended winter break.
A parent of a child under 12 years old can ask their employer for “disease prevention childcare leave” during the two weeks, Hsu said.
“As it is a special policy, the employers are required to approve the child-care leave request, and they cannot deem an employee absent from work or make them take personal or other types of leave, nor can they dismiss or punish the employee or deprive them of a perfect attendance record,” she said.
However, a company can decide whether the employee who takes such leave should receive their salary during the leave, she said.
The Ministry of Labor understands that the policy might cause human resource difficulties, but it hopes employers can help as the nation faces this difficult time.
As for the spread of the virus in Taiwan, the CECC said 89 new cases of severe pneumonia with novel pathogens were reported on Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to 1,007 cases, including 10 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV infection, but 829 people have been ruled out, and the rest are under quarantine.
No new confirmed case of 2019-nCoV was reported on Saturday, and the 10 patients with confirmed cases are in stable condition and still receiving treatment, with just one having a fever and one requiring oxygen.
One of the 2019-nCoV patients being treated has since tested negative for the virus twice, but they would not be discharged from the hospital until their condition has been assessed by specialists and another test comes back negative, the CECC said.
At 8pm last night, the CECC announced that Wenzhou, in China’s Zhejiang Province, has been listed as a secondary epidemic area.
As of today, Taiwanese and foreign residents who have visited Wenzhou in the past 14 days would be put under a 14-day home quarantine after returning to Taiwan, while residents of Wenzhou are banned from visiting Taiwan, Centers for Disease Control Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said.
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