Kaohsiung. CNA photo May 26, 2021
A food delivery worker have a quick meal on the roadside. CNA photo May 26, 2021
Taipei, May 26 (CNA) Authorities can fine people for not wearing masks in public without giving a verbal warning beforehand, said Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, who pledged Wednesday to rigidly enforce the rule under the current state of alert.
Chen's announcement during a press briefing indicated that the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) previous policy that local governments should impose fines only when people refuse to comply with the mask rule is no longer applicable.
Under the current CECC guidelines, people should wear masks at all times outside their homes or face a fine between NT$3,000 (US$107) and NT$15,000, but local governments have adopted different standards for enforcing the rule.
The tightening of the rule is part of government efforts to curb the spread of the virus, according to the CECC, which has extended the nationwide COVID-19 alert to Level 3 in its four-tier system to June 14.
There are some exceptions to the mask rule.
People with dementia will be not punished in the event that their mask "occasionally falls from their face," Chen said, but people with dementia should be accompanied by someone when not at home and be reminded to wear their mask at all times.
In addition, people who must work outside, such as food delivery drivers, and are unable to find an indoor space to have their meals due to a government ban on dine-in services, can also be exempted from the penalty if they take off their masks to eat, Chen said.
They must do so, however, in an open space where social distancing can be maintained, Chen added.
Meanwhile, owners of public facilities and adult entertainment venues that have been ordered to close will risk heavy fines if they do not comply, as will their staffers and customers, Chen said.
Businesses that ignore the rule could be fined up to NT$300,000, but Chen did not specify if staffers or customers would be subject to similarly high fines.
The reinforcement of certain rules came a day after Chen openly criticized violators as not fulfilling their social responsibility and thus increasing police officers' risk of exposure to COVID-19.
In addition, gatherings such as weddings and funerals, as well as religious activities should be suspended, Chen added.
According to the CECC's regulations, indoor gatherings of more than five people and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, but the measure does not apply to those who live under the same roof.
People who break the rules will be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000.
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