An Executive Yuan ban on elementary and secondary school teachers and students traveling abroad is constitutional and within the legal parameters of Article 7 of the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Recovery (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例), Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said yesterday.
Lo made the remark in response to a reporter’s question on whether the ban is unconstitutional because it restricts people’s freedom of movement.
The ban was based on Article 7 of the act, which has its roots in Article 31 of the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act (災害防救法) that gives the heads of disaster response command centers the power to “take any necessary response measures,” Lo said.
The legal basis of special laws is Article 23 of the Constitution, which affords the government the right to introduce special laws in times of emergency, he said.
During the SARS outbreak, the government forcibly quarantined people suspected of having the disease, which prompted a request for the Council of Grand Justices to interpret the constitutionality of the move, he added.
The council declared the moved constitutional in its Interpretation No. 690, citing Article 37 of the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), which was also derived from Article 31 of the Disaster Prevention and Protection Act.
In the explanation for Article 7 of the special act, lawmakers stated that due to the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center, should be given a reasonable degree of flexibility to respond to potentially rapid developments of the pandemic, Lo said.
Chen told a Cabinet meeting yesterday that the powers given to him by Article 7 were a last resort and that he would not invoke the article when existing laws suffice, Lo said.
However, even with the article, it is unlikely that people would travel abroad, as the coronavirus has spread quickly — affecting 149 nations and regions as of yesterday — and the ban would likely have little direct effect on people, he said.
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