Students arriving at Batugadé from Indonesia are sprayed with disinfectant (Image/Eugénio Perreira)

DILI, 9 April 2020 (TATOLI) — Timor-Leste’s borders will be closed to all travellers from Monday, in drastic measures aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Foreign Minister, Díonosio Babo Soares (Image/Tatoli)

The Council of Ministers yesterday revised last month’s State of Emergency decree, “temporarily” closing all borders to all citizens, from April 13 “until further notice”.

“Next week there will be no more arrivals [accepted]. Although [expatriates’] visas may expire, the nations that they live in will make allowances,” Foreign Affairs Minister Díonísio Babo Soares said on Wednesday.

The ministry did no immediately respond to questions about what exemptions to the border closures may be granted.

The government has been warning its citizens abroad not to return home, as quarantine sites fill up and restrictions tighten in response to the pandemic.

Related news: Foreign Minister Tells Timorese Abroad not to Come Home

The text of the Emergency Decree revision (Image/supplied)

As the number of confirmed cases continues to rise in the region – Australia 6,010, Indonesia 2,956 – Timor-Leste still has just one confirmed patient test positive to the virus.

Covid-19 has now infected 1.5 million people worldwide as of Thursday, killing 87,545 people. Around 330,000 have now recovered.

Support for Timorese abroad

Australia has already made concessions for its 1,200 seasonal workers from Timor-Leste, allowing them to stay up to 12 months in a bid to prevent a labour shortage on the country’s farms.

And despite Indonesia now allowing foreigners on certain visas to remain a further four months, Timorese students continue to return home via the land border with East Nusa Tengarra province. 100 students crossed the Batugadé checkpoint on Thursday alone, Minister Soares said.

Anyone arriving from another country must undergo 14 days mandatory quarantine.

Related News: Covid-19 Patient Recovering: Dr Rui Araújo

Minister Soares said the Government will continue providing a subsidy to all Timorese students abroad, based on the cost of living in each country. The proposal was approved by the National Parliament following a submission by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Parents and families, please send your children’s complete names and complete criteria to our embassies, because the council has approved the subsidise them, to support them,” Mr Soares said.

According to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MNEK), there are 4,000 students receiving financial support from the Timor-Leste government; 775 of those in Indonesia. This does not include students who are financially supported by the families.

“The Scholarships students will continue receive their scholarship allowance. Even though they are not [attending] school during this [Covid-19] situation, the government will continue to send them the money,” he said.

MNEK has coordinated with the Timor’s foreign missions, and the Ministry of Higher Education to find the mechanism for implementing the subsidy in the short term.

Read the original Tetum: Governu La Autoriza Ona Timoroan Fila Mai TL

Journalist: Hortencio Sanchez

Editors: Robert Baird, Agapito dos Santos

Translation: Nelia Borges

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