Cabinet passes draft law to cope with coronavirus impact

The Cabinet approved Thursday a draft bill aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (CNA)
The Cabinet approved Thursday a draft bill aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Cabinet approved Thursday a draft bill aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, which includes measures to compensate medical personnel, those required to undergo quarantine and hard-hit local sectors.

The bill also details harsher punishments for individuals who jeopardize disease prevention efforts, by breaking quarantine restrictions or hoarding supplies.

If the bill is passed by the Legislature, it will authorize the Cabinet to allocate a special budget of no more than NT$60 billion (US$2 billion) to cover funding, which will stay in effect until the end of June next year.

Under the draft bill, medical workers involved with epidemic prevention efforts will receive subsidies, Minister without Portfolio Lo Ping-chen (羅秉成) said at a press conference Thursday.

If those workers fall ill or die as a result of their work, they will receive additional compensation, Lo said.

For individuals who have to undergo quarantine, the bill stipulates that employers cannot list them as absent from work, or discriminate against them in any manner.

If they are not paid a salary during their period of quarantine, they will be entitled to apply for compensation within a period of two years, though details regarding the application process are still being discussed, Lo said.

These provisions also apply to employees who have to take time off work to care for family members in quarantine who are unable to take care of themselves, Lo added.

However, parents who have to take time off to look after children due to the delay in the reopening of schools will not be entitled to this form of compensation, Deputy Labor Minister Liu Shih-hao (劉士豪) said.

In addition to offering compensation to workers affected by COVID-19, the bill provides benefits for companies as well.

Companies that pay employees’ salaries when they take leave for quarantine, or when they take leave for childcare during the extended winter break, will receive tax breaks, Lo said.

The government will also enact relief measures for industries impacted by the outbreak, and provide necessary help for employees within those industries, Lo said.

NT$20 billion will be earmarked for domestic demand-driven industries, including manufacturing, according to Vice Minister of Economic Affairs Wang Mei-hua (王美花).

In terms of harsher punishments aimed at individuals who jeopardize COVID-19 prevention efforts, the bill raises significantly the penalty for violating quarantine terms.

Under the bill, individuals who violate their 14-day home quarantine terms will be fined NT$100,000 to NT$1 million, up from the NT$10,000 to NT$150,000 stipulated under the Communicable Disease Control Act.

Those who violate the stricter home isolation terms will be fined NT$200,000 to NT$1 million, up from the previous NT$60,000 to NT$300,000.

The rise is in light of numerous cases of people breaking the terms of their quarantine, Lo said.

For individuals confirmed or suspected of having contracted COVID-19, if they disobey instructions and behave in a way that increases the risk of infecting others, they face a prison term of up to two years or a fine of up to NT$2 million.

People who drive up the prices of supplies related to disease prevention or hoard such supplies face prison terms of up to five years as well as a fine of up to NT$5 million, while those who disseminate false information regarding the epidemic face up to three years in prison or a fine of up to to NT$3 million, Lo said.

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