■ Cross-strait tiesBeijing bans tours to Taiwan
China is prohibiting groups from visiting Taiwan amid fears the travelers would spread the SARS virus, the official Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday. Xinhua quoted an unidentified spokesman for China's Taiwan Affairs Office as saying that the ban on group travel across the Taiwan Strait would be effective until further notice. ``We are confident that cross-strait exchanges and contacts between personnel will continue to develop after SARS is curtailed,'' the spokesman reportedly said. Phone calls to the Taiwan Affairs Office went unanswered after business hours yesterday.
Delegation in Denmark
A four-member delegation from Academia Sinica arrived in Copenhagen on Tuesday to attend the 6th symposium of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Shao Kwang-Chao (劭廣昭), director of Academia Sinica's Institute of Zoology, is heading the delegation that will attend the three-day gathering that ends today. The GBIF has 36 members and its purpose is to make the world's biodiversity data freely and universally available.
CKS numbers plummet
The number of arrivals and departures at CKS International Airport hit a record low of 12,342 on Monday, according to figures released by the airport administration. The historic lows -- 6,560 arrivals and 5,782 departures -- were a result of the government's decision to impose a 10-day period of forced confinement on passengers coming from areas and countries listed by the World Health Organization as affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Monday's figure was about 25 percent of the normal traffic volume, airport officials said, adding that travelers from China, Macau, Singapore and Canada totaled 2,266, including 38 foreigners.
Vaccine hunt team formed
Academia Sinica will organize a research team to try to develop vaccines for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), president Lee Yuan-tse (李遠哲) said on Tuesday evening. Lee said that Michael Lai (賴明詔), who will take over the post as the institute's vice president in July, along with Chen Ting-hsin (陳定信), president of National Taiwan University Hospital, will be in charge of organizing the project. Lee expressed his confidence in the lineup of academics, saying it is expected that the 16-member research unit will be able to develop the vaccines within a six-month to one-year period.
Robbers shoot police officer
Two gunmen shot a police officer 11 times during a robbery at the Motor Vehicles Office in Taichung City yesterday. They escaped with NT$10 million. The police officer, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, was taken to the Taichung Veterans General Hospital for treatment but his condition was not thought to be life-threatening. The two robbers hid in a toilet at the office until cash trucks arrived at around 5pm, when the office closed. After opening fire on two police officers, the robbers fled on a motorcycle with the cash. Yesterday was the final day to pay vehicle license plate taxes, the police said.