Taiwan plans to punish fake news about coronavirus with three years in prison

Cabinet to discuss package of relief measures and sanctions on Feb. 20

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Government prepares package of measures to reduce the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Government prepares package of measures to reduce the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Spreading fake news about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak might soon be punishable by prison terms of up to three years, according to government plans under discussion.

The measures follow an announcement by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Feb. 13 that his Cabinet is preparing a special budget of NT$60 billion (US$1.99 billion) to deal with the fallout from the virus.

The package still has to be approved by the Legislative Yuan and is expected to come into force in late May. It would remain valid for a year until June 2021, CNA reported.

As the outbreak is seen as special, spreading rumors about the disease will be punishable under the penal code by a maximum fine of NT$3 million or a maximum prison sentence of three years.

In addition to punitive measures, the special package also included business tax benefits for companies which give their employees paid leave due to the coronavirus quarantine measures, according to CNA.

The final details of the plans are likely to be presented at the weekly Cabinet meeting Thursday (Feb. 20) before they are submitted to the Legislative Yuan for approval.