Taiwan plans to join the US, Japan and South Korea to survey the Pacific tectonic plate with locally built ocean bottom seismometers (OBS) next year, which would allow scientists to chart new research areas, Academia Sinica Institute of Earth Sciences research fellow Kuo Ban-Yuan (郭本垣) said. The opportunity arose after he led a team of Taiwanese researchers to deploy an OBS array in the Northern Okinawa Trough onboard the research vessel Legend (勵進) from 2018 to last year in collaboration with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the University of the Ryukyus, Kuo told the Taipei Times on March 16. Inaugurated in May 2018, the 2,629 tonne Legend is managed by the National Applied Research Laboratories’ Taiwan Ocean Research Institute (TORI). It was the first time that Taiwanese and Japanese scientists had cooperated on research of this kind and scale within Japan’s exclusive economic zones, he said. He thanked Taiwan-Japan Cultural and Economic Association honorary chairman Cheng Chi-Yao (鄭祺耀) and former Japanese representative to Taiwan Mikio Numata for their help, which made the voyages possible. In September 2018, they deployed 35 OBSs in the trough and recovered 33 of them nine months later, Kuo said. The survey found that earthquakes below the northern trough can happen at depths of up to 300km, deeper than a previous observation of nearly 200km, he said. Once the team has published the first round of their findings, the OBS data would be made available on the Taiwan Earthquake Research Center or other platforms, he said. Kuo said he is to lead a team to deploy an OBS array in the central Pacific Ocean in March next year, joining other academics from the US, Japan and South Korea to create the western wing of a Pacific array, which, when complete, would be made of more than 100 OBSs across the
INSURANCE CLASS BATTLE: The university’s Student Affairs Office asked that footage of an alleged fight between a professor and a student be turned over to it
National Chengchi University (NCCU) and the Ministry of Education are investigating an alleged fight between a professor and a student over a disagreement over wing chun, a Chinese martial art, the university said yesterday. A post on a Facebook page used by NCCU students said that during a lecture on insurance law, a student told the professor that “wing chun is only used for close-quarters combat and can only best farmers.” Notable practitioners of wing chun include Ip Man (葉問) and Bruce Lee (李小龍). The professor asked the student to spar with him and the student was given the first opportunity to strike, the Facebook post said. The professor taunted the student, repeatedly saying: “Come on,” and hit the student in the head and stomach multiple times, despite the student acknowledging that he had been wrong about wing chun, the post said. The student nearly fell out of a window, a comment on the post said. The professor insisted that he had not instigated the fight and was simply giving the student an opportunity to learn that wing chun is not useful only in close-quarters combat, the post said. Commenters claiming to be part of the class wrote that the professor has said: “Brute force has, since the days of antiquity, always been the most efficient manner of resolving conflict.” Another comment jokingly said that “wing chun is not used only to beat farmers, but also students,” while another said that the student “learned his lesson for mouthing off to the professor.” The NCCU Student Affairs Office said that the institute’s military instructor was concerned about the student’s injuries and called on people in the class who recorded the incident to show it the footage.
The High Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by former Taiwan Federation of Financial Unions deputy director Lai Wan-chih (賴萬枝), upholding a sexual assault conviction against him. In 2017 the Taoyuan District Court found Lai guilty of sexually assaulting a secretary, sentencing him to three years and two months in prison in the first ruling, which he appealed. Court documents showed that Lai was part of a federation-organized weekend trip to Nantou County in June 2014. After dinner and KTV, Lai and others in the group went to the secretary’s room and he remained until they were the only two left, the documents showed. Testimony against Lai said that he jumped on top of her on the bed, groped her and bit her breasts. The secretary told investigators that she screamed and demanded that Lai leave, but he remained in the room despite her efforts to push him out. After more insisting, he eventually left the room, she said. Witnesses told the court that the woman appeared more reticent the following day. Medical reports said that she had bruises on her breast and genitals, as well as signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Lai told the court that no sexual assault had taken place. The secretary did not report the incident to the police at the time and the following day she continued to interact with people at the event, Lai said. Thursday’s ruling can be appealed.
Police in Taoyuan yesterday arrested a man suspected of murdering an Internet cafe employee after a disagreement over money. The 35-year-old man, surnamed Su (蘇), allegedly stabbed to death a 19-year-old man, surnamed Liu (劉), after he refused to lend Su money late on Friday night while Liu was on his way to work, police said. Su, who police described as an “unemployed recluse,” had made the Internet cafe his “home” for nearly five years, police said. Su’s parents had apparently stopped paying for his Internet use, so he had begun borrowing money from others at the cafe, police said. The stabbing occurred on Nanfeng Road in Pingjhen District (平鎮), after which Su returned to the cafe to change clothes before turning himself in at the Pingjhen Police Station, officers said. Residents in the area told police they had seen Su at about 11pm walking in front of a 7-Eleven convenience store on Nanfeng Road and mumbling to himself. Liu’s sister told police that Su was well-known among staff at the Internet cafe. He spoke quietly and kept to himself, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about him. She said she found Liu’s body when she went searching for him after he failed to arrive at work on time. She was confused as to why his wallet and phone were not stolen, she said. The case has been referred to the Taoyuan District Prosecutors’ Office, police said. In other news, a woman sitting in the back seat of a vehicle involved in a car chase died yesterday after she was struck by a shot fired by a police officer. Police in Taoyuan’s Bade District (八德) began pursuing the vehicle at 11:40pm on Friday after the driver — who had been driving erratically — refused to pull over. The driver, a man surnamed Wu (吳), had a blood alcohol reading of
SOUNDING THE ALARM: The nation could help other countries learn how to spot Chinese misinformation and boost its international status, a professor said
The nation should amplify its global voice by sharing with other nations its predictions of China’s next steps on spreading disinformation about COVID-19, thereby leveraging its strategic position at a time when international politics is dominated by rivalries between large countries, Taipei University assistant professor of criminology Puma Shen (沈伯洋) said. Chinese disinformation can be divided into four categories: capitalist, original, outsourced and regional, all of which target the general audience, Shen told a forum held by the New Taiwan Peace Foundation. Outsourced and regional disinformation are more crude and easier to identify, such as an ever-increasing number of videos containing misinformation that are posted on YouTube, as well as those shared on Chinese instant messaging apps, he said. Capitalist disinformation is disseminated by wealthier entities, such as the Chinese government, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and their affiliated units, while original disinformation is created by hired overseas online influencers, Shen said. He cited as an example Taiwanese YouTubers, some of whom have received training from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), saying that this type of disinformation is usually more difficult to identify. Taiwan was the first nation to inform the WHO of a pneumonia-like disease in China, Shen said. As early as mid-December last year, Google Trends had shown that the number of searches originating in China’s Hubei Province using the keyword “SARS” spiked to about 50 times the normal frequency, he said. Shen said that through his methods he could “confirm” that Beijing’s state propaganda and CCP wings have united in an all-out effort to whitewash China’s reputation by creating the false impression that COVID-19 originated in the US. However, with Taiwan having been able to keep COVID-19 under control and the public largely maintaining its composure, China has not yet launched an all-out disinformation campaign against the nation, he said, adding that this scenario
CONFUSION: NTHU was told by the Hsinchu Public Health Bureau to not delay disease prevention efforts, but the university’s case had not yet been announced by the CECC
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday said that it would set guidelines for other agencies about disclosing information concerning confirmed cases, after some schools expressed confusion regarding interagency communication. Academia Sinica, National Chengchi University and National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) have issued announcements to clarify their quarantine measures for confirmed cases. Asked if the center provides guidelines about information disclosure, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), the CECC’s spokesman, on Friday advised institutions to check with the CECC before revealing any information beyond what it has announced, citing its smooth collaboration with Academia Sinica as a good example. After confirming an infection on its campus in an open letter on Friday last week, Academia Sinica the next day revealed the department the case was affiliated with and their activity “footprints.” After the CECC reported three more cases at Academia Sinica, National Taiwan University (NTU) on Monday asked all faculty members who had visited Academia Sinica in the two weeks before to conduct self-health management and not to enter campus. The CECC remained in contact with Academia Sinica during the process and welcomed its strategy of sharing footprints, but added that it disapproved of “the so-called pre-emptive action” of some schools, Chuang said. There can be a lapse between a school’s disease prevention actions and the CECC’s daily case announcement, an NTHU administrative officer said on Friday. When NTHU on Tuesday told nearly 900 students via text message that 20 classes were changed to online courses as 26 students had been quarantined because they were in contact with a confirmed case, the CECC had not yet announced the case, the officer said. After texting students, the school called 1922 — the CECC’s information hotline — to ask for guidelines as to what to do next, but the CECC asked it to consult the Hsinchu Public
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday said that the disease prevention measures implemented in the next week would be critical in determining how the nation’s COVID-19 situation develops. Ko made the remark on the sidelines of a launch event for Cherish Food Taiwan’s Cherish Food Kitchen, which is to provide 300 free hot boxed lunches each day to frontline healthcare professionals at seven hospitals in Taipei and New Taipei City. The association said that it collects unconsumed ingredients to make the meals and gives them to elderly people who are in need. It established the new kitchen to expand its capacity during the COVID-19 outbreak and would provide meals to frontline medical professionals from Monday to Friday for three months, it said. The seven hospitals are: New Taipei City Hospital’s Sanchong and Banciao branches, the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taipei Hospital and Shuang Ho Hospital, Taipei Municipal Wanfang Hospital, Shinkong Wu Ho-su Memorial Hospital, and Taipei City Hospital’s Chung Hsin Branch. “In my opinion, the upcoming week is the most dangerous period [for Taiwan], as the reported cases have increased by about 20 every day,” he said. “If we can keep it under control and reduce the numbers, then we can pass the second wave [of imported cases], but if there is a loophole, the situation will be horrible.” New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) said that no one knows when the battle against COVID-19 will end, so everyone should play their part, like members of a baseball team. In addition to cooperating with the central government, local governments must also cooperate, just as Taipei provided the building for the Cherish Food Kitchen and New Taipei City provided the ingredients, so that meals could be provided to hospitals in both cities, he said.
Strict measures forcing the cabin crews and pilots of local airlines to be quarantined at home between flights to combat COVID-19 were put into effect on Friday, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said. All flight crews working on long-haul passenger flights that require them to enter a foreign country to rest would be subject to five days of home quarantine after returning to Taiwan, said Clark Lin (林俊良), director of the CAA’s Flight Standards Division. The home quarantine period for cargo flights would be three days, Lin said. Prior to Friday’s announcement, flight crews of domestic airlines were exempt from the requirement set on March 19 that all people entering Taiwan from abroad must quarantine themselves at home for 14 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The new guidelines allow for quarantine periods of fewer than 14 days, because such flexibility is necessary for the aviation industry to transport passengers overseas and carry essential supplies, Lin said. Under the rules, once crew members have arrived in foreign countries, they must be transported separately to designated hotels and isolated there until the return leg, while reporting their body temperatures every day. At home, the crew members are not allowed to leave their homes at all during their five-day or three-day quarantines. If they are to spend more than five or three days in Taiwan between flights, they must remain in quarantine for 14 days, but can go out to handle daily living needs, Lin said. “The airline companies must arrange for these people to seek medical treatment if they develop symptoms” while in isolation at home, he said. The change in standard operating procedures for quarantines for flight attendants and pilots is because of the changing status of the pandemic, Lin said, adding that short-haul flight personnel would not
Employers and brokers need to help migrant workers check that their legal duration of stay in Taiwan covers the same period as their work permits to avoid fines and penalties, the Ministry of Labor said. The advisory was issued as the ministry is cracking down on migrant workers whose Alien Resident Certificates (ARC) have expired as one of its measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Taiwan has launched an amnesty program to encourage illegal migrant workers to turn themselves in to be deported without facing penalties. Migrants’ ARC expiry dates might not cover the full duration of their work permits due to differences in regulations covering the two documents, the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) said in a statement on Thursday. ARCs are issued based on provisions in the Immigration Act (入出國及移民法), followed mainly by the Ministry of the Interior, while work permits are based on the Employment Service Act (就業服務法), used by the Ministry of Labor, the agency said. Lennon Wong (汪英達), director of a service center and shelter for migrant workers run by Serve the People Association in Taoyuan, said that he has a case where a Philippine migrant worker might have to leave Taiwan because of the legal inconsistency. The worker, who has a valid work permit, has been accused of overstaying her ARC for two months because her broker forgot to update her new address and extend her ARC, Wong said. The problem occurs because an ARC cannot expire after a foreign national’s passport does, he said. “Many migrant workers have been overseas for so long that they have used up many years on their passport” by the time they apply for an ARC, Wong said. Workers might only have two years left on their passports when they come to Taiwan, meaning the ARC is valid for
DIPLOMACY US journalists ‘welcome’ US journalists expelled by China are welcome to set up shop in Taiwan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said yesterday. Beijing ordered the expulsion of 13 journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal earlier this month as part of a spat over media freedoms with the US. Wu said on Twitter that the journalists would be warmly received on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. “I’d like to welcome you to be stationed in Taiwan — a country that is a beacon of freedom and democracy,” Wu wrote. “You’ll find people here greeting you with open arms & lots of genuine smiles.” WEATHER Cooler weather forecast Temperatures today would be similar to yesterday’s throughout Taiwan, but without rain, the Central Weather Bureau said, adding that the weather would gradually become warmer from Tuesday. A front passed through Taiwan and northeasterly winds resulted in a noticeable drop in temperatures yesterday, with lows ranging between 15°C and 19°C across the country and showers or thundershowers in the northern half of Taiwan, the bureau said. Beginning on Wednesday, northeasterly winds and a cloud and moisture system from southern China would approach Taiwan and again reduce temperatures, in particular in northern and eastern Taiwan, the bureau forecast. The cool weather is likely to last through the Tomb Sweeping Day holiday from Thursday to Sunday, it said. CRIME Vietnamese escapees caught Six Vietnamese who escaped from a Taichung facility have been tracked down and arrested, with the case now under investigation, authorities said on Friday. The six were among 31 Vietnamese arrested on a Taiwanese fishing boat in waters off Pingtung County on Saturday last week, the Coast Guard Administration’s Investigation Branch said. Two Taiwanese crew members were also detained by local prosecutors for suspected involvement in people smuggling. After
YOUTHFUL APPROACH: Johnny Chiang called on the DPP to form a constitutional reform committee, saying that young people should speak up for their own rights
A proposal by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus to amend the Constitution to lower the legal voting age to 18 and the age ofpolitical party candidacy to 20 yesterday advanced to committee review. “Today is the most significant day for the reforms that the KMT has pledged to undertake,” KMT Legislator Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) told a news conference in Taipei. As the party is traditionally seen as being out of touch with young people, the proposed constitutional amendments are a statement to empower youth as they seek more participation in public affairs, said Chiang, who was elected KMT chairman this month. With the advent of the Internet, young people are now exposed to an abundance of information and have become more insightful than politicians on a range of emerging issues, Chiang said. Instead of petitioning and protesting as outsiders, young people should be elected as delegates to speak up for their own rights and shape the nation’s future, he said. As the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been a vocal supporter of lowering the legal age of candidacy, it should quickly assemble a constitutional reform committee to respond to calls from young people, he added. Politicians have traditionally made decisions for young people without listening to what they really want, KMT caucus secretary-general Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) said. Democracy can only be realized by increasing civil participation in public affairs, he said, adding that “youth are our future” should not be a slogan, but a reality. The KMT used to oppose lowering the legal voting age because it believed that younger voters generally disliked it, DPP caucus director-general Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said. The KMT’s proposals show that it is finally willing to heed the calls of the public and do the right thing, he said. Several DPP lawmakers have tendered similar proposals, but they are not exactly aligned with
CAUTION WARRANTED: Su Tseng-chang said Taiwan acts in its people’s best interest and would not be ‘sandwiched’ by other nations as it seeks engagement
The government would let science be its guide when determining whether to allow imports of US pork and bovine intestines containing ractopamine to ensure that public health is safeguarded, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday. Su made the remark when asked whether the ratification of the US’ Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act would affect the government’s stance on the issue. Citing Section 3 of the act, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Te-fu (林德福) asked Su how the government intends to respond to Washington’s request that it lift the ban on pork and bovine intestines containing the leanness-enhancing agent, which would undoubtedly be a topic in upcoming Taiwan-US trade talks. The section contains a clause that says: “The United States trade representative should consult with [the US] Congress on opportunities for further strengthening bilateral trade and economic relations between the United States and Taiwan.” The US is the world’s largest economy and the nation most friendly toward Taiwan with which it has large trade volume, Su said. The government hopes to expand trade with the US in a mutually advantageous manner, he said. Regarding the importation of US pork and bovine intestines, Su said that the government has always approached the issue with the overarching principle of safeguarding public health by referring to international standards and scientific research. Lin asked Su how the act would affect trade with China, as Beijing could opt to terminate the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in June. Trade with China is crucial for Taiwan, but just as the world has learned from the COVID-19 pandemic that it “should not put all its eggs in one basket,” the government hopes to engage in mutually beneficial economic exchanges with the whole world, Su said. As the nation has an annual trade surplus with China of about US$80 billion, the government
Party discipline is a make-or-break factor to rehabilitating the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) public image, KMT Chairman Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said yesterday. Chiang made the remark in a Hit FM radio interview on the party’s relationship with the media, characterizing his efforts to communicate the party’s ideals and plans as “tiresome” due to a “severe imbalance” in reporting. The party’s relationship with the media is rocky and, as such, the KMT is absolutely at a disadvantage in terms of news coverage, he said. He cited as an example a rumor that Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) had quaffed three bottles of kaoliang liquor to secure the party’s presidential nomination. “I never believed that,” Chiang said. The KMT cannot tell certain news outlets what to say, so it should instead focus on the outlets it can influence, Chiang said, adding that the party would review its ties and relations with media groups and change how it handles the media. The party should treat the media with dignity and respect, he said, expressing the hope that the party, under his leadership, would prove to the media that this gesture is sincere. Asked whether controversy involving KMT Legislator Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) has undercut the party’s rebranding efforts and fueled Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) attacks on the KMT, Chiang said that Wu has received the second-most negative online commentary among KMT lawmakers. With the DPP deliberately overinterpreting his every word and action, it is easy for the public to see Wu’s remarks as representing the party, Chiang said, adding that he would find time to speak with Wu and offer the party’s assistance in handling the issue. Should Wu refuse the party’s goodwill and repeat his mistakes, the KMT would have no alternative but to issue him a reprimand, which could result in his removal from the legislator-at-large seat, Chiang said. Party discipline must
The second line of the Danhai Light Rail Transit system is likely to bypass the popular tourist spot of Tamsui Old Street (淡水老街) and run along the Tamsui River (淡水河) due to opposition from local residents, the New Taipei City Department of Rapid Transit Systems said on Tuesday. The Blue Seaside Line, which is under construction, is to start at MRT Tamsui Station and join the completed Green Mountain Line at Binhai Shalun Station, it said. The Blue Seaside Line was originally to be separated into two single tracks in either direction, instead of a single double-track design for most parts between MRT Tamsui Station and Station V23, near Fort San Domingo, the department said. That would allow one track to run through Tamsui Old Street, while the other would run along Provincial Highway 2b, it said. The two tracks were to converge near Station V23 and extend westward to Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf Station next to the highway, it added. However, local residents have opposed introducing the light rail to the old street since last year, due to noise and environmental concerns, as well as the inconvenience that would be caused for parking and product loading. At a meeting between the city government and local residents on Monday, complementary measures were initiated, including road renovation and construction of underground parking lots for motorcycles. However, residents remain opposed to the idea, leading to a plan in which there would not be any separation of the double tracks, the department said. The entire line is to be built alongside the river, bypassing the old street and the highway, it said. The city government is expected to approve the new plan soon, the department said, adding that construction could start next year and be completed in 2024 as scheduled. The four-line light-rail system started operations in 2018
A record-high 76.6 percent of the Taiwanese public sees China as unfriendly to the Taiwanese government, as well as Taiwanese (61.5 percent), the highest levels in 15 years, a Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) survey released on Thursday showed. Taiwan attended the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decisionmaking body, as an observer from 2009 to 2016, but has since been denied entry due to pressure from Beijing. About 90 percent of respondents said that they were against China keeping Taiwan from joining the WHO amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as that directly affects the Taiwanese public’s right to health. More than 70 percent felt that the government should exhort Beijing to end its political machinations against Taiwan at the WHO, the survey found. On the issue of evacuating Taiwanese stranded in China’s Hubei Province, about 73 percent supported the government prioritizing disadvantaged people and disease prevention measures, it showed. Since last year, the percentage of the Taiwanese public opposed to China’s “one country, two systems” framework has increased from 75.4 percent to 90 percent, the survey found. Beijing’s continued suppression of Taiwan on the international stage has only led to heightened tensions across the Taiwan Strait, MAC Deputy Minister Chen Ming-chi (陳明祺) said. Chen called on the Chinese Communist Party to recognize that its political claims are not realistic and to rationally weigh public opinion in Taiwan when developing its cross-strait policies. The council commissioned the National Chengchi University Election Study Center for the poll, which was conducted via telephone interviews from Thursday last week to Monday. It collected 1,089 valid samples and has a margin of error of 2.97 percentage points.
JOB HUNTING? Kuo Fu-wen reportedly told police he was not at home because he was looking for work and he did not need to be in quarantine because he felt fine
A man has been barred from overseas travel after defying quarantine orders and refusing to pay a fine, Ministry of Justice officials said yesterday. The Administrative Enforcement Agency said that Kuo Fu-wen (郭富文) is the first Taiwanese to be denied travel rights because of COVID-19 rules after he returned to Taiwan on Feb. 7 from China, a day after the government imposed mandatory 14-day home quarantine on all travelers returning from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, to help prevent the virus’ spread. Kuo told immigration officers that he lived in New Taipei City’s Sinjhuang District (新莊), but he was listed as missing after he could not be located, the ministry said, adding that it was actually the address of his elder brother. The brother told police officers that Kuo had been out of touch with the family for many years, it said. When called on the phone number he provided, Kuo gave false information to police, a borough warden and New Taipei City health workers, it said. Kuo told police: “I am in good health, so why should I stay at home in quarantine?” the ministry said. After making his name public, Kuo was found at a hotel in Taoyuan, the ministry said, adding that he told police he was at the hotel to apply for a job. Kuo was fined NT$100,000 (US$3,307), but refused to pay, so the case was forwarded to the ministry, which yesterday barred him from overseas travel, it said. In related news, the Taoyuan Department of Health yesterday fined a woman NT$700,000 for breaching home quarantine. The woman returned from Macau on March 1, but Taoyuan police said they found that she had left her residence twice, on March 13 and Monday last week. Separately, the Criminal Investigation Bureau yesterday reminded people not to circulate false information regarding the COVID-19 situation after a false
APOLOGY MESSAGE: A professor of law said that only Taiwanese should qualify for compensation and that the couple should be fined over their baseless accusations
A British woman and her Australian partner who, according to a BBC report, complained that being quarantined in Taiwan was like being “incarcerated” would not be receiving government compensation for their time in quarantine, as they provided false information to the media, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The false information negatively affected the nation’s image and might make people unwilling to comply with quarantine requirements, which would negatively affect the government’s COVID-19 containment efforts, the center said in a statement, adding that the couple might have breached the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法). Natalie Dawson and Rohan Pixley arrived in Taiwan on March 14 as they transited on a flight to Australia, but were forced into a 14-day quarantine. They have been in separate quarters since then. The BBC on Wednesday quoted Dawson’s mother as saying that her daughter and Pixley had been separated and “incarcerated,” and that their living conditions were poor. The story went viral on social media, but the BBC pulled the story on Thursday without explanation after it faced a strong backlash online. The depiction of the conditions that the couple experienced while quarantined at a repurposed school dormitory in Hualien was apparently based on her mother’s account, which Taiwanese authorities have disputed. Earlier yesterday, the Hualien County Health Bureau released a text message with Dawson’s permission in which she expressed regret over the incident, saying that she had no idea that a report was being written. “I didn’t know anything about it until today. I appreciate what you have done for myself and Rohan and I can only apologize,” she wrote. The two are scheduled to be released from quarantine today at 11:59pm, bureau Deputy Director Chung Mei-chu (鍾美珠) said. The regulations state that individuals, whether Taiwanese or foreign nationals, subject to home isolation or home quarantine for 14 days are
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday said he would not replace Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) as head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). Former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) last week called for Chen Shih-chung to be replaced, citing the contracting economy and panic buying of daily necessities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Taiwan People’s Party this week urged Su to take over the reins at the CECC himself, saying that there were contradictions between how Su and Chen Shih-chung viewed plans to evacuate Taiwanese stranded in Wuhan, China, where the disease emerged. Chen Shih-chung “is very professional and responsible, and he has done a great job,” Su told reporters at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei. “He will not be replaced.” He has performed admirably “on the front line” while commanding work to contain the novel coronavirus, while behind the scenes, a large team has worked seamlessly to perform tasks from delivery and distribution of masks to drafting economic stimulus policies, Su said. Chen Shih-chung’s approval rating reflects public approval of the overall team, Su said. Asked about complaints by Taiwanese in China’s Hubei Province that two flights to evacuate people via Shanghai Pudong International Airport are “inconvenient” and “expensive,” with the airport more than 1,000km from Hubei, Su said that the airfare was agreed on by the organizing agencies and China Airlines to ease the financial burden people seeking to return home. As for the Hubei Provincial Taiwan Affairs Office’s call for Taiwanese to be allowed to board homebound flights in Wuhan, rather than Shanghai, Su said that it could be an option after the Chinese government lifts the lockdown on the city.
Researchers have identified an antioxidant in locally grown black tea leaves as a potential inhibitor of protease activity in SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, Chiayi Chang Gung Memorial Hospital said on Wednesday. A research team led by Wu Ching-yuan (吳清源), head of the hospital’s Department of Traditional Chinese Medicine, used a computer program to identify potential antiviral components in traditional plants, the hospital said in a statement. Theaflavin, a polyphenolic compound, shows broad-spectrum antiviral activity against several viruses and could be used as a lead compound for the development of a SARS-CoV-2 inhibitor to target the DNA-directed ribonucleic acid (RNA) polymerase (RdRp) enzyme. In coronaviruses, RdRp catalyzes the replication of RNA from a template, making it an attractive candidate to help develop a treatment, Wu said. RdRp in SARS-CoV-2 is also a primary target for the antiviral remdesivir, which the WHO has called the most promising drug available for the treatment of COVID-19, he said. Remdesivir works by inhibiting RdRp, which many RNA viruses — including coronaviruses — use to replicate themselves. The antiviral effects of theaflavin are similar to those of remdesivir, Wu said. However, the exact in vivo effect is still unclear, and further research is needed to confirm the mechanism whereby theaflavin targets SARS-CoV-2, Wu said. The findings were published by the American Society for Microbiology in the Journal of Medical Virology on March 13, the hospital said. In other news, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Thursday said that quinoline antimalarial drugs, which have been discussed as a possible treatment for COVID-19, are produced in Taiwan and could be made available if testing proves them to be effective against the novel coronavirus. In a small French study, doctors used a drug in the quinoline family — hydroxychloroquine — to reduce the duration and severity of COVID-19 symptoms in people with mild cases, said Chang
Taiwan is to adopt more stringent measures against COVID-19 from Wednesday next week, ahead of the four-day Tomb Sweeping Day holiday, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said on Thursday. The new measures would include temperature checks for people entering train and bus stations, airports, highway service areas and post offices, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said. In cases where an infrared camera detects a temperature of at least 37.5°C or an ear thermometer registers at least 38°C, the person’s temperature would be checked a second time and they would not be permitted to enter the facility if the second reading is also too high, Lin said. Infrared cameras are be installed in the high-speed rail stations in Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung’s Zuoying (左營), as well as at 34 Taiwan Railways Administration stations, before the holiday, which begins on Thursday next week and ends on April 5, he said. Major train stations would step up sanitization and passenger volume control efforts in anticipation of large numbers of people traveling to their hometowns to pay respects to their ancestors, the ministry said. All high-speed rail stations are to be disinfected every two hours, and only reserved seats would be sold before, during and after the holiday to prevent overcrowding, it said. From May 1, temperature checks would be extended to all train and bus stations, airports and post offices nationwide, it said. The Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法) allows the government to regulate gatherings and prohibit people with suspected communicable diseases from taking public transportation, or entering or leaving specific places, during an epidemic or to prevent one. In related news, the Tainan City Government said that an express bus service between the city and Kaohsiung International Airport would be suspended next month due to a significant drop in the number of passengers due