CORONAVIRUS / Overseas travel ban on students, teachers has legal basis: Premier

Taipei, A ban on overseas travel placed on all students and teachers at the senior high school level and below is based on two laws, Premier Su Tseng-chang (???) said Tuesday, amid debate on whether the decision unlawfully violates people's freedom of movement.

The legal basis is derived from the Communicable Disease Control Act and the recently passed Special Act aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease outbreak, Su told reporters.

According to the Communicable Disease Control Act, competent authorities shall "implement effective preventive measures to control the occurrence of communicable diseases," while Article 7 of the Special Act stipulates that the head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) can "implement the necessary measures needed to prevent and control the spread of the disease," Su said.

The ban is necessary for epidemic prevention, and the Cabinet made the decision to implement it based on suggestions from the CECC, according to Su.

He called on the Taiwanese people to cooperate with the government's measures, and to avoid traveling to countries included in the CECC's travel warning list so as to protect themselves and their compatriots.

The travel ban, which was announced by the CECC on Monday, was decided on after a high school student was confirmed Sunday to have contracted COVID-19, with the source of infection suspected to be Greece, where the student had been traveling with his family.

The ban will be effective until the end of the semester, which started following a two-week delay on Feb. 25 and as a result, is scheduled to end on July 14.

However, the announcement of the ban has sparked debate on whether the Cabinet has the legal right to limit people's freedom of movement.

In a Facebook post late Monday, lawyer and New Power Party legislator Chiu Hsien-chih (???) argued that Article 7 of the Special Act was not specific enough for the Cabinet to enforce such a ban.

The article itself does not comply with the legal certainty principle, which stipulates that a law must be precise enough so people are able to foresee what it entails, Chiu explained.

Based on Article 7's wording, people can't know what "the necessary measures needed to prevent and control the spread of the disease" could be and what the government could do to them, which could lead to disputes in the future, Chiu said.

To make the travel ban lawful, Chiu suggested the Cabinet and the Legislature create subsidiary legislation under Article 7 to further clarify what types of measures the government can implement under the Special Act, how these measures could be carried out, and related compensation policies.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (???) said on Tuesday that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, most of which are imported, including a high school student, pose a huge challenge to epidemic prevention in schools.

The travel ban, therefore, is to prevent the few students and teachers who choose to travel in the middle of the semester from doing so, Pan said, adding that individuals who have special reasons for their trips will be allowed to travel once they obtain a permit.

Pan did not respond to questions over whether students and teachers will face punishment if they undertook unnecessary overseas trips.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel