Sun, Feb 09, 2020 - Page 3 News List

Virus Outbreak: Medical professionals call for evacuation oversight

ALIGNED INTERESTS:MAC Deputy Minister Lee Li-jane said that the demands are in line with the council’s principles and that it would make sure they are implemented

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Medical professionals yesterday hold up a banner outside the Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei calling on the government to meet three criteria proposed in a petition before allowing more evacuation flights from Wuhan, China.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

A group of medical professionals yesterday urged the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) to not allow further evacuation flights from China unless three criteria are met to better ensure disease prevention.

There has been significant criticism over the passenger list and disease prevention measures for the first flight, on Monday, that evacuated Taiwanese from Wuhan, the epicenter of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

Many vulnerable Taiwanese who should have been given priority were replaced on the flight by Chinese spouses or family members. Of three passengers who were not on the original list, one was confirmed to have the disease shortly after arriving in Taiwan.

In addition, passengers were not given protective gear during the flight.

Chinese state-run Xinhua news agency on Friday quoted China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) as saying that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was using “giving priority to the vulnerable and ensuring disease prevention” as an excuse to shed responsibility and mislead the public, as well as delay the process of returning people to Taiwan.

Surgeon Wu Hsin-tai (吳欣岱) on Friday launched a petition urging the government to firmly stick to its disease prevention principles and safeguard Taiwan from the virus.

The petition demands that Taipei decide the passenger lists for evacuation flights from Wuhan, that flights include Taiwanese disease control personnel and that evacuees should only be accepted if there are enough local health resources.

Wu, former DPP legislator Lin Ching-yi (林靜儀), who is an obstetrician, and Taipei Doctors Union executive director Chang Chao-cheng (張詔程), as well as representatives of several medical groups, yesterday took the petition to the Mainland Affairs Council in Taipei.

Having more than 200 people confined to an airplane cabin with someone who is infected puts all passengers at risk, Wu said, adding that as Taiwan’s medical resources are limited — with only about 1,100 negative pressure isolation wards — the government should not accept unlimited evacuation flights from China.

The petition was signed by 111,761 medical professionals in one day, one-third of the nation’s registered medical professionals, she said.

Of the signatories, 15.1 percent are physicians and 47.9 percent are nurses, she added.

Separately yesterday, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center, said that “it is meaningless to get involved in a political war of words when we are dealing with professional disease prevention.”

“We are fighting against a virus from Wuhan, not fighting against Wuhan,” he said, adding that all disease prevention policies have been undertaken according to professional assessments of infection risks, not based on bilateral relations.

MAC Deputy Minister Lee Li-jane (李麗珍) said that the medical professionals’ demands are in line with the council’s principles and that it would make sure they are implemented.

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