Taiwan Legal Update: Updates on COVID-19 Measures

As the Coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, the Taiwanese Government have laid out new measures adding to the steady release of preventative steps against the outbreak.

Introduction of the “Epidemic Prevention Treatment Team”

Last week, Minister Cai of the Ministry of Justice created the “Epidemic Prevention Treatment Team Circular” in response to the newly enacted “Special Regulation for the Prevention and Rehabilitation of Severe Special Infectious Pneumonia”, (the Special Regulations).

The chief prosecutor is acting as the convener of the team and is joined by several other prosecutors, investigative police officers, health administrators and members from agencies such as consumer protection, fair trading, administrative enforcement branch, customs, immigration and sea patrol.

The team has been made responsible for the investigation and punishment of all criminal acts regarding the COVID-19 virus such as violations of the Communicable Disease Control Act (CDCA) and the Special Regulations (SR).

These regulations include spreading rumours and misinformation (Article 9 of the CDCA, Article 14 of the SR), hoarding of epidemic prevention materials or raising prices (Article 61 of the CDCA and Article 12 of the SR), and violating terms of quarantines (Articles 43 and 58 of the CDCA and Articles 13 and 15 of the SR).

It is hoped that this team is able to promptly enforce the law in order “to curb the people’s wilful violations and prevent epidemic breaches”.

Relief measures

The government is currently considering accommodating those citizens who have been affected by COVID-19 to pay their taxes one month late. For example, license taxes are due in April and May has taxes such as income, property and business all due. This would follow measures laid down in the 2003 SARS outbreak.

However, there has been criticism by those pointing to the postponement only applying to those “affected” by the Coronavirus, a precise definition of which has been difficult to create. The Ministry of Finance is likely to state that the measures will apply to those living under home quarantine, health workers and employers rather than simply just those who have been diagnosed with the virus.

Furthermore, newly created relief measures by the Bank of Taiwan have been supported by the Ministry of Finance for clients that have been affected by the virus. Those who fail to make their credit-card payments due to the epidemic are able to apply for a deferment to pay until 30th April 2020. The relief allows an extension of a period of up to 90 days without receiving interest or penalty fees.

These measures, unlike the potential tax relief, have been defined and include medical workers and disease prevention personnel, people who have been placed under governmental quarantine as well as those who are unable to return to Taiwan due to either quarantine or the travel bans.

Furthermore, those who have been quarantined at home will be given a 30-day grace period as they fall short of the government mandated quarantine.

The bank is also attempting to persuade its clients to make any credit card payments through the Bank of Taiwan’s online banking or mobile payment in order to reduce exposure risks. They have also implemented an automatic bill repayment scheme in order to reduce the requirement to go to the bank.