Implementing Measures for the Declaration of a State of Emergency in Timor-Leste due to COVID-19
On March 19th, 2020, the Government of Timor-Leste, concerned about the global pandemic caused by the COVID-19 virus has approved through Government Resolution no. 10/2020, a set of exceptional and temporary measures in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in the national territory.
The approved measures include:
1. The prohibition of entry into national territory, to all foreign citizens who in the last 4 (four) weeks have left or transited through countries with registered cases of infection by COVID-19. This prohibition does not apply to foreign citizens who were born in Timor-Leste territory and (i) who habitually reside here, or (ii) who are legal representatives of Timor-Leste nationals, or third-country nationals who are legal residents of Timor-Leste over whom they exercise parental authority or ensure their livelihood and education. Passengers disembarking from cruise ships are also prohibited, unless they are Timorese citizens or foreign citizens who find themselves in one of the situations described above. In duly substantiated cases, related to the defense of the national interest or convenience of service, the Prime Minister may authorize the entry of foreigners into national territory. All national citizens and all foreign citizens covered by the exceptions above, arriving by air, land or sea must be in voluntary quarantine, for a minimum period of 14 (fourteen) days, and must inform the health authorities where they will be isolated;
2. Under the approved Resolution, human resources of the State’s Direct and Indirect Administration are prevented from traveling abroad on duty;
3. The possibility of urgent medical evacuations and supplies of medicines, materials and hospital consumables is ensured, on a flight regime for sanitary and / or humanitarian reasons;
4. For the purposes of maritime or air transport and the release of goods at Ports or Airports, foreign citizens, under the responsibility of the carrier and under its responsibility, may only remain in the “International Zone”.
The measures to prohibit entry to all foreign citizens, provided for in the approved Resolution, will be monthly reviewed, with a view to their maintenance or elimination.
Subsequently on March 27th, 2020, the President of the Republic, through the Decree no. 29/2020 has declared a state of emergency covering the entire Timorese territory between 00:00 hours on March 28th, 2020 and 23:59 hours on April 26th, 2020 based on the verification of a public calamity situation.
On March 28th, 2020, the Council of Ministers approved the Government Decree no. 3/2020 listing the measures for implementing the declaration of a state of emergency that contain the pandemic and ensure the subsistence of the supply chains of essential goods and services for the population.
The decision of suspension of the exercise of certain rights to implement measures to prevent and combat the epidemic was taken with respect of the constitutional limits and following the guidelines of the World Health Organization and do not affect, under any circumstances, the right to life, physical integrity, civil capacity and citizenship, non-retroactivity of criminal law, defense in criminal proceedings, freedom of conscience and religion, non-subjection to torture, slavery, servitude, cruel, inhuman treatment or punishment degrading or non-discrimination.
Under the Decree, the exercise of the following rights is temporarily suspended:
a. International circulation: the entry of foreigners into national territory is prohibited, except for foreigners born in Timor-Leste, resident citizens and legal representatives of Timor-Leste nationals. The Prime Minister may exceptionally authorize the entry of foreigners, in duly substantiated cases, related to the defense of the national interest or convenience of service. This prohibition does not apply to workers on oil platforms located in the Timor Sea. Foreigners responsible for transporting goods or releasing imported goods do not need authorizations, however they must remain in the international zone of seaports, airports or land border posts. Those who intent to leave the country will be subject to health control, namely through the measurement of body temperature or other means of diagnosis. Except in cases of medical evacuation, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, fever above 37,5ºC, cough and/or breathing difficulties, will be prevented from traveling and a health establishment will be conducted to perform diagnostic tests of COVID-19. All persons entering the country are required to be in quarantine for at least 14 (fourteen) days and in case of COVID-19 symptoms they will have to undergo the diagnostic examination of COVID-19 and in positive cases they will be subject to therapeutic isolation.
b. Public administration: The Government identify the human resources strictly necessary to ensure the functioning, in a regime of minimum services, of the Public Administration and the provision, to citizens and companies, of goods and services that are of an urgent nature or unavoidable. Whenever possible, the respective human resources should be allowed to provide professional activity in a non-face-to-face manner and through new communication and information technologies. Installations where public services operate must ensure that there is a minimum distance of 1 (one) meter between people and provide the necessary means to wash hands before entering the building.
c. Vocational education and training establishments: During the state of emergency, all school activities are suspended on a face-to-face basis and the facilities of educational, education and vocational training establishments are closed, and teachers and students are prohibited from staying in the premises. During this period, distance learning should be promoted through the means of information and communication.
d. Private economic initiatives: Commercial and service establishments, markets and street vendors are allowed. When entering commercial or service establishments, everyone should wear protective face mask, wash their hands before entering the facility and maintain a safety distance of at least one meter from other people. Those responsible for commercial establishments and the provision of services are obliged to make available, at the entrance of the respective establishments, the necessary conditions for people to wash their hands and the entry into commercial establishments or the provision of services is refused to individuals who do not use masks and wash their hands.
e. Public transports: Collective passenger transport is suspended.
f. Compulsory and voluntary isolation: Infected with the COVID-19 remain in mandatory confinement, in a health establishment or in their address, until they are discharged and all individuals who enter the country and all who are under surveillance by the health authorities during a period of 14 (fourteen) days. Individuals who are not subject to compulsory isolation and who do not exercise any professional activity or are exempt from the obligation to be present at the workplace must remain in their homes and when leaving must go alone and keep a distance of at least 1 (one) meter from other individuals and avoid crowds.
g. Right of assembly and protest: It is forbidden to hold meetings or events that involve more than 5 (five) people and any social, cultural and sporting events. This includes the prohibition to hold any religious celebrations and other cult events, as well as funerals are subject to the adoption of preventive measures and should not involve the presence of more than 10 (ten) people at the same time.
h. Validity periods of licenses and authorizations: Licenses, permits, visas and residence permits and other administrative acts and documents remain valid regardless of the expiration date.
The security forces and services, civil protection agents and inspectors of the food and economic security authority are responsible for the enforcement of above mentioned provisions and they are entitled to (i) issue orders and instructions necessary for the application of the referred rules, (ii) promote measures necessary to ensure compliance with the mandatory isolation regime by all who are subject to that regime, (iii) promote dispersion of gathering of individuals on public roads and (iv) encourage fulfillment of the duty of voluntary confinement by and the individuals who must observe that measure.