Taiwan yesterday issued a Level-2 travel advisory for five Chinese provinces and two metropolitan areas after confirming a day earlier the first H7N9 avian influenza case reported locally, but contracted in China.
The Central Epidemic Command Center announced the listing of the five Chinese provinces — Jiangsu, Henan, Zhejiang, Anhui and Shandong — and two cities — Shanghai and Beijing — in its Level-2 travel alert after an inter-ministerial meeting.
“We referred to the three-level travel advisory system used by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when deciding to issue a Level-2 advisory for the seven destinations,” said Centers for Disease Control Director-General Chang Feng-yee (張烽義), head of the epidemic command center.
Under the system, a Level-1 advisory urges those who are bound for listed destinations to exercise vigilance and take health precautions, while a Level-2 alert calls for would-be travelers to maintain a high degree of caution and take strengthened protective measures, especially when they visit certain high-risk places.
A Level-3 travel advisory warns against travel to listed destinations.
“Because all seven of the listed destinations have reported confirmed H7N9 cases, people planning to travel there should pay close attention to their personal health and hygiene,” Chang said.
Tourists visiting these areas are advised to take extra precautions, and risks to travelers are higher in certain locations within those areas, the center added.
In light of the nation’s first confirmed H7N9 case, reported on Wednesday, the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday also announced it would move forward the date banning traditional markets from live poultry slaughter by one month, from its original date of June 17.
Starting in May 17, all traditional markets with the exception of outlying islands and rural areas will be barred from slaughtering livestock on site in markets, the council said.
Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) dismissed speculation that Taipei will launch the ban today, as some local media outlets quoted COA Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) as saying earlier yesterday.
“What we will do starting on Friday is to enhance communication with vendors that still offer live poultry slaughtering at traditional markets and encourage them to sell frozen meat instead,” he said.
Taipei Deputy Mayor Chen -Hsiung-wen (陳雄文), who also serves as the director of Taipei’s H7N9 emergency response center, said the city government would meet with directors of traditional market associations and 177 vendors that continued to sell live poultry to explain the ban.
To smooth the implementation of the ban, the city government will give a NT$100,000 subsidy to poultry vendors that become frozen poultry suppliers.
Those who decide to quit the business altogether will receive a subsidy of NT$600,000 for returning their vending booths to city markets.
Chen said vendors who insisted on selling live poultry after May 17 will be fined for violating the Animal Industry Act (畜牧法).
According to Taipei City’s Market Administration Office, between 50,000 and 60,000 birds are slaughtered in the city a day, with between 20,000 and 30,000 slaughtered at Huanan Public Market in Wanhua District (萬華).
Chen said that the city would start sending all live poultry to the public market, which has 14 slaughtering lines, to handle the poultry slaughter.
He added that the emergency response center would hold a cross-departmental meeting regularly to monitor the situation.
Additional reporting by staff writer