DILI, 25 May 2020 (TATOLI) – Timor-Leste will spend another month under the state of emergency decree – subject to presidential approval – following a decision by the Council of Ministers.
The Council has asked President Francisco Guterres to extend the measure for a further 30 days, once the current decree expires on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Council said the decision was prompted by the “worrying epidemiological situation” in Indonesia – particularly neighbouring West Timor.
“[The situation] also requires the maintenance of the application of some extraordinary measures, although mitigated, to stop the pandemic, avoiding the transmission of new cases,” the Council said.
The initial state of emergency was enacted on March 27 and extended again on April 27. The Council said the decrees have “greatly contributed” to the fact that there are currently no active cases of COVID-19 in Timor-Leste.
Under the measures, public gatherings such as religious mass are banned, schools and universities are closed and foreigners are barred from entering the country.
Earlier this month, restrictions on public transport were relaxed.
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Fidelis Magalhães, said there would be “a lot of flexibility” in the restrictions on movement within the country.
“The principal focus is on keeping the border shut… not just the land border, but also [people arriving] by air and by sea,” he said, at a press conference in the Government Palace today.
However, he stressed that the Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili continues to operate, but only to bring in essential goods.
“The same [applies] by sea, to give people the chance to move via the sea to transport food,” he said.
In Indonesia’s East Nusa Tengarra, officials have recorded 79 cases of COVID-19, while one patient has died. Six patients have now recovered, according to that country’s health ministry.
Timor-Leste has no active cases of the virus, after the last patients in isolation recovered 10 days ago.
All 24 cases were confirmed as being imported from overseas, and there has been no local transmission of the virus.
However the lockdown has taken its toll on the local economy, with GDP forecast to drop almost five per cent by year’s end, as the restrictions on movement compound problems stemming from the budget impasse.
The government has responded by setting up a Covid-19 Fund to finance the COVID-19 response, and provide a variety of subsidies to affected people.
The novel coronavirus, first reported last December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has affected almost 5.4 million people worldwide and caused the deaths of more than 300,000 people.
Journalist: Tomé Amado
Editors: Robert Baird, Agapito dos Santos
Translation: Nelia Borges