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
Tainan City Councilor Lu Kun-fu (盧崑福) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday sparked further controversy when he echoed remarks by KMT caucus whip Alex Fai (費鴻泰) that Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) should be executed for an increase in domestic COVID-19 cases. Chen heads the Central Epidemic Command Center. Lu at a question-and-answer session at the Tainan City Council said that a lapse in disease prevention measures at China Airlines, which has led to a cluster infection, could have been controlled. However, as the airline’s pilots were allowed a shortened quarantine period of three days and were placed
DATA-DRIVEN: The dedicated department used big data to find sexual harassment hot spots on the Mass Rapid Transit system to take measures against perpetrators Most incidents of sexual harassment and secret photography in Taipei’s MRT metropolitan railway system over the past five years occurred at three stations, the Rapid Transit Division of the Taipei City Police Department said in a statement yesterday. Most incidents were recorded at Zhongxiao-Fuxing MRT Station, followed by Taipei Main and Zhongxiao-Dunhua MRT stations, the department said, adding that the results were obtained through big data analysis. The system, which serves Taipei and New Taipei City, handles about 2.2 million passengers per day, and most cases of secret photography and sexual harassment — usually involving touching a victims buttocks or chest
‘STAY CALM’: The nation has more than 800 million masks in stock and can produce up to 40 million a day, while hand sanitizer stocks are also sufficient The nation has an ample supply of masks to meet demand amid concerns over an increase in the number of domestically transmitted COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said on Tuesday. Taiwan has more than 800 million masks in stock, with daily production of 18.3 million units on average and maximum daily capacity of 40 million units, the ministry said on Facebook. The ministry’s assurance came after Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), on Monday said that the nation has entered the community transmission stage after several new domestic
EYES AND EARS: The navy has commissioned the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology to manufacture radars to upgrade the nation’s naval monitoring stations A military enthusiast yesterday posted photographs of Taiwanese F-16 jets taking off from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu with two refueling aircraft, presumably returning to Taiwan from the US for upgrades. Asked about the matter, the Ministry of National Defense declined to comment. The jets had been part of training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and had briefly landed in Honolulu, where the photographer, Aeros808, had spotted them, a source said. The jets did not land in Guam, which had been done in 1996 when the US Air Force delivered F-16s to Taiwan, the source said, adding that the