In response to the projected consequences of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the Ministry of Culture has been working on mapping out the necessary precautions required for Ministry-affiliated venues while drafting a relief package to alleviate the outbreak's impact on culture and the arts.
Apart from mandatory guidelines for its public-facing venues, the Ministry also plans to roll out short-term relief measures and long-term revitalization strategies to help mitigate the financial impact of the current outbreak on the cultural and arts sectors and the people who work in these fields. The endeavor also seeks to reduce the global epidemic's medium- and long-term impact on the economic growth and creative momentum of these industries.
During a Feb. 13 Cabinet meeting on boosting domestic demand and shielding Taiwan's tourism, transportation, and agriculture sectors from the coronavirus, Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun spoke of the hard-hit cultural and arts sectors and the need for medium- and long-term solutions to accompany immediate relief measures.
The Minister also suggested reallocating a portion of the nation's emergency budget and reserve funds to ease the current financial fallout, as many traditional and contemporary performances, music concerts, and exhibitions at home and abroad have been either postponed or cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak
The virus has also weakened the domestic box office, affected consumer behavior in the visual arts, crafts, and publishing industries, and damaged small-scale creative businesses and bookstore operations, she added.
Cheng proposed three short-term relief measures. First, the inclusion of the cultural and arts sectors in the small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) loan package offered by the Ministry of Economic Affairs, so that the affected businesses will become eligible for low-interest loans and an extended scheme for repayments.
Second, the Ministry is devising a subsidy plan for the cultural and arts sectors to assist enterprises, groups, and individuals who have suffered operational difficulties or virus-linked losses that are catastrophic or unrecoverable, the Minister said.
Third, the central government is considering issuing vouchers to boost consumption amid the virus outbreak, and the Ministry is petitioning for expanding the use of the coupons to include the cultural and arts sectors as well.
Citing last year's statistics on the creative sector alone, Minister Cheng stated that the number of people employed in this field has reached 260,000, generating a record high of nearly NT$880 billion in output in 2019.
To contain the coronavirus impact and maintain the creative momentum of culture and the arts, the Ministry plans to release further medium- and long-term revitalization measures, including methods to accelerate investment and financing, encourage culture-related spending and consumption, and strengthen the international presence of Taiwan through culture following the immediate introduction of short-term measures.
Regarding the epidemic itself, the Ministry has formulated preventive directions for its affiliated venues in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Central Epidemic Command Center.
The precautionary measures, Cheng said, will be quickly adjusted based on the latest COVID-19 developments and medical instructions, adding that as of now, all Ministry-affiliated venues are open to the public as usual.