National Parliament, Thursday night (March 26)(Image/Egas Cristovao)

DILI, 27 March 2020 (TATOLI) – Timor-Leste’s national parliament has unanimously approved a state of emergency declaration in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The vote follows a formal request from President Francisco Guterres Lu-Olo, and still requires his formal assent. It will grant the government additional powers to tackle the virus.

Once signed, the declaration will begin from midnight tomorrow night, and last for one month.

During the debate last night, the President of the National Parliament, Arão Noe de Jesus da Costa Amaral, said every member had the chance to speak, but none opposed the bill.

“The results for the vote of request are 64 votes in favour, zero against and zero abstentions. Lú-Olo’s request was approved unanimously in the National Parliament”, Mr Arão said.

Related News: Lú-Olo Ready to Authorise State of Emergency: Spokesman

The law would provide extraordinary powers to the government to deal with three unfolding crises: the devastating March 13 Dili floods, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the global financial fallout resulting from it.

Authorities would have the power to shut down large gatherings, close businesses and seal off the country’s borders if necessary. Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak last night gave an indication of which measures may be applied first.

“Because the illness passes from person-to-person, when we implement the State of Emergency we can limit movement, which is a good way to impede the virus from spreading,” he said.

“It’s like fire: if we don’t turn off the heat, it will continue to grow.”

The Council of Ministers approved the request for the State of Emergency last Monday, March 16. President Francisco Guterres Lú-Olo presented the formal request to parliament on Tuesday of this week.

Joaquim dos Santos, from the opposition FRETILIN party said it was important parliament passed the bill.

“I voted in favour for the reason that I don’t want people to die because of COVID-19,” he said

Mariano Assanami Sabino from the Democratic Party also said he voted in favour “for the good of the state”.

Journalists: Evaristo Soares Martins

Editors: Robert Baird; Cancio Ximenes

Translation: Nelia Borges

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