Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) said yesterday that he felt tremendously sorry that one of his ministry's officials may have come down with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and 56 other people who had close contact with him have consequently been put in home quarantine.
Fielding questions at the Legislative Yuan about the roles and potential dangers of mass transportation during the SARS crisis, Lin said Chou Chi-hui (周啟輝), a section chief of the Directorate General of Highways, may have contracted SARS after making business trips to Taichung and Chiayi on highway buses between April 22 and April 24.
Chou asked for leave after feeling unwell and then checked into National Taiwan University Hospital on Saturday after coming down with a fever. He died yesterday afternoon.
In response to questions raised by KMT Legislator Wang Yu-ting (王昱婷), Lin said he will discuss with related officials the feasibility of having the temperature of all railway passengers taken upon boarding trains and improving the ventilation system on trains to better protect the health of passengers.
Lin also said that it is unacceptable that passengers at the Tainan Civil Airport have not been provided with surgical masks to prevent the spread of the virus upon boarding planes.
According to Wang, she asked for a surgical mask from the Tainan airport staff yesterday morning but was told that they had run out.
Having no choice, Wang said, she ran to a nearby store to buy one for herself before boarding a plane bound for Taipei.
Meanwhile, the ministry yesterday requested that starting from tomorrow, all passengers wear masks while taking trains. It will deploy special staff to check whether passengers are complying with the advisory.
Since the request is an advisory, station officials can not force people to wear masks.
However, they will take the temperatures of people not wearing masks.
Anyone whose temperature is over 38℃ will be barred from taking a train.
Last week the ministry began checking the temperatures of the passengers on luxury trains but said it would be too difficult to check all passengers on ordinary trains because of the numbers involved.