CECC to fine non-mask wearers if serious COVID-19 outbreak occurs

CNA photo Aug. 26, 2020

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said on Wednesday that in the case of a serious outbreak of COVID-19 in Taiwan, local governments will be compelled to fine people who refuse to wear face masks in certain public spaces.

The CECC will impose the measure if the pandemic worsens in Taiwan, or if domestic cases with no known origin appear in the country, it said.

If the number of cases with unknown sources continues to rise and patients spread across multiple cities and counties, the CECC will consider imposing nationwide rules for mask-wearing in an effort to stop the spread of the disease, it said.

Thus far, Taiwan has been relatively protected from the disease, so the CECC has not yet ordered local governments to impose fines for non-mask wearers, although it said it respects the decision of some local governments who have already started doing so.

In Tainan and Taoyuan cities, local governments began fining people over the past week who refuse to wear masks in eight types of public spaces, including medical care centers, public transportation, schools and religious centers.

Other places, such as markets, performance centers, entertainment centers and events where large numbers of people gather, are also included on the list.

People who refuse to wear masks in these spaces can be fined between NT$3,000 (US$108) and NT$150,000 under Taiwan’s Communicable Disease Control Act, according to the governments of the two cities.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung explains eight types of public spaces people should wear a face mask. Photo courtesy of the CECC

Also on Wednesday, the CECC said that people in quarantine will no longer be allowed to visit the doctor on foot or by private transportation, in further efforts to increase safety.

Instead, they will have to travel by ambulance or in specially designated taxis contracted by the government to transport travelers returning to Taiwan and people in quarantine, the CECC said.

Under CECC regulations, people who wish to see a doctor while under quarantine must inform the local health authorities, who can help arrange such transportation.

As there were only a limited number of the special taxis and ambulances available at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, some members of the public had been instructed to visit the doctor under their own steam, the CECC said.

They were allowed to travel on foot, use their own vehicles (including bicycles, motorcycles and cars), or have a family member drive them, according to the CECC.

As the number of special taxis has risen in the past few months, however, the CECC has decided to ban those in quarantine from going to the doctor without using the mandated transportation methods, it said.