CDC offers avian flu shots
The government has begun providing free vaccinations against avian influenza strain H5N1 to people at high risk of contracting the virus, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said yesterday. By the end of last month, 12 cases of H5N1 infections in humans had been reported in Cambodia, China and Egypt, Chou said. The highly pathogenic virus was also found in smuggled pet birds at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport last year, Chou added. From now until Aug. 31, the CDC will provide free shots of the H5N1 vaccine to certain high-risk groups, including staff at laboratories that work with the virus, as well as those who work in quarantine units, the Coast Guard Administration, airports and customs points, Chou said. Pregnant women are advised against having the vaccination, he added.
Live-fire exercise planned
The Coast Guard Administration (CGA) on Friday said it would stage a live-fire exercise next month on a disputed South China Sea island. The drill will take place on Taiping Island (太平島) from April 9 to April 11. The island is part of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島), a sprawling chain claimed in whole or in part by Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei. Among other weaponry, the drill will involve 40mm artillery and 120mm mortars, both shipped to the island last year to boost defense capability in the Spratlys, the CGA said. Taiping is the biggest island in the Spratlys and has long been governed by Taiwan, which maintains a small coast guard garrison there. Vietnam voiced anger after Taiwan moved the new, longer-range artillery and mortars to the island last year.
Taipei cleanup planned
A Japanese civic group that came to Taiwan last year to help clean up the streets will relaunch the program in Taipei later this month to thank the nation for its humanitarian relief after the March 11, 2011, tsunami and earthquake in Japan. The Nagoya, Japan-based non-government organization Earth (NGO Earth) said it decided to visit the nation again because it was impressed by Taiwanese’s passion and hospitality. The group was joined by more than 200 locals who helped pick up trash in downtown Taipei last year. While last year’s event was organized by the Japanese group, the campaign this year will also be coordinated by a local organization, highlighting the friendship between Taiwan and Japan, NGO Earth said. Collection will take place between 1:45pm and 5:30pm on March 9, and will start at Taipei Municipal Song Shan Primary School.
Thai trains showcase sights
Trains painted with scenic attractions and Taiwanese snacks on Friday arrived at Siam Station, the largest and busiest stop in Bangkok’s mass transit system as part of efforts to promote Thai travel to Taiwan. The trains, bearing the logo “Time for Taiwan,” showcase the Taipei 101 skyscraper and the scenic Sun Moon Lake (日月潭), as well as signature foodstuffs such as bubble milk tea and soup with dumplings. The advertisements were launched by the Tourism Bureau amid a growing interest among Thais in traveling to Taiwan. Interest in visiting Taiwan has grown rapidly in Thailand over the past two years, and the country has posted a higher growth in visitors than any other Southeast Asian nation, travel operators said.