Fri, Jan 24, 2020 - Page 1 News List

Health ministry expands border control measures

By Shelley Shan, Lin Hui-chin and Dennis Xie  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

People wear surgical masks at a crowded Lunar New Year fair in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times

The nation’s epidemic response command center has upgraded efforts against the 2019 novel coronavirus by expanding border control measures to include all travelers from China, Hong Kong and Macau, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday.

Wuhan residents would be prevented from entering Taiwan, Chen told a news conference in Taipei.

Symptom-free travelers from China, Hong Kong and Macau would need to sign a declaration of good health and say whether they were routed through Wuhan, with those making false declarations, a breach of the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), facing a fine of NT$10,000 to NT$150,000, Chen added.

Chinese tourists who have visited Wuhan in the past 14 days would be reported and hospitalized, or monitored by officials, depending on their status, he said.

The 3,000 to 4,000 people returning from Wuhan over the past two weeks and over the next two weeks are to have their health status surveyed, he said.

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in a Facebook video reminded people to wash their hands often and take preventative measures on public transportation, saying that the government would be closely monitoring developments.

Four airlines with services between Taiwan and Wuhan canceled their flights after Wuhan transportation systems were shut down.

Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said that China Airlines (中華航空), Mandarin Airlines (華信航空), China Eastern Airlines (中國東方航空) and China Southern Airlines (南方航空) offer 12 flights to Wuhan each week: five from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, two from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) and five from Kaohsiung International Airport.

“Whether or when these flight services will be resumed depends on the situation with the virus,” Wang added.

China Airlines announced that both it and its subsidiary Mandarin Airlines would cancel flights to Wuhan — China Airlines flights (CI541/542) between Taoyuan and Wuhan and Mandarin Airlines flights (AE217/218) between Songshan airport and Wuhan — until the end of next month, as the Chinese airport is closed.

The airline said that it would help passengers scheduled to return to Wuhan during this time to fly to a nearby city.

To comply with government containment policies, both airlines said that flight attendants serving flights to China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as between Songshan airport and Kinmen and between Taichung and Kinmen — part of the “small three links” — would wear masks and offer them to passengers.

The Tourism Bureau said that local travel agencies have been asked to help Chinese tourists from Wuhan return to China.

A total of 130 tourists from Wuhan were visiting Taiwan, the bureau said on Wednesday, adding that some were scheduled to return yesterday and today.

“Travel agencies must ensure that these tourists do not overstay,” Tourism Bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) said.

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