As the nation is tomorrow to begin the three-day International Workers’ Day weekend, lawmakers on the Legislative Yuan’s Transportation Committee yesterday passed a motion asking the Ministry of Transportation and Communications to launch a mobile app to regulate crowds at nearly 300 popular tourist attractions nationwide only after the app passes stress tests at randomly selected hot spots before the holiday.
Functions of the “Freeway 1968” app, which previously only helped motorists avoid congestion on freeways, have received public scrutiny after they were upgraded to allow travelers to monitor vehicular and foot traffic at attractions during holiday weekends.
The changes are part of the government’s plan to allow the public to enjoy their holiday travel plans without compromising the nation’s hard-won disease prevention achievements over the past two months.
Photo: Wang Mei-hsiu, Taipei Times
As of yesterday, the nation had not reported a confirmed COVID-19 case in four consecutive days or any domestic infections in 17 days.
However, the changes have drawn criticism from local government officials since they were announced.
Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-je (黃偉哲) on Monday said that 17 of the attractions included in the app are in Tainan, compared with only four in Taipei and 15 in New Taipei City.
He questioned the criteria used by the ministry to determine which locations would be listed and expressed concern that travelers would not visit Tainan after seeing the list.
More local officials criticized the app after Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) yesterday told the committee that the number of attractions listed in the app would be expanded from 216 to nearly 300 on orders from the Central Epidemic Command Center.
The app was upgraded to help control the number of people at attractions during a long weekend, the ministry said.
It displays crowd levels in green, yellow and red — normal, slightly more crowded than normal and crowded respectively, it added.
However, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) said that some users found that a yellow alert was shown for the Hsinchu Zoo, even though it was closed at the time.
Meanwhile, the citron daylily blossom in Changhua County’s Huatan Township (花壇) was not included in the app, even though it often draws huge crowds on holidays, Lee said, adding that the data and logic the app uses to issue alerts are inaccurate and unclear.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷) said that the center sent crowd warning text messages to visitors at 11 attractions during the four-day Tomb Sweeping Day weekend earlier this month.
While the nation has had zero new confirmed COVID-19 cases for several days in a row, the number of attractions that would be monitored closely has jumped to nearly 300, he said, describing the decision as mind-boggling.
Travelers might decide to skip some attractions if they see a yellow or red alert has been issued and shops would end up with no customers, which would create a lose-lose situation for visitors and small businesses, he added.
Lin said that the app uses average foot traffic in the previous two to three months as a baseline and engineers have set parameters to reflect changes in volume.
The app could show a yellow or red alert if there is a slight change in foot traffic, Lin said, adding that the ministry would regularly update the app’s functionality and make necessary changes.
The ministry said that a meeting with representatives of Chunghwa Telecom’s big data department and the Freeway Bureau found that the app did not take into consideration the number of visitors each attraction can accommodate, which is why it failed to accurately reflect crowd sizes.
Chunghwa Telecom has been asked to revise the parameters before the holiday, it added.
RISK FACTORS: ‘We hope people can cooperate and endure it ... it is possibly the very important last mile,’ Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said Taiwan’s COVID-19 restrictions and mask regulations are to remain the same next month, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The center reported 42,112 new local COVID-19 cases and 85 deaths, saying that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has dropped to a new low this month. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said that the center is keeping COVID-19 restrictions and mask regulations the same due to the local virus situation, and an increase in the number of imported cases of the new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of SARS-CoV-2, among other risk factors. Easing
TRAVEL CONFERENCE: Representatives from the two countries exchanged views on how to increase tourist numbers, with one identifying individual travel as a trend Taiwan and South Korea aim to increase the number of tourists traveling between the two countries to 3 million, government and tourism industry representatives said at a conference in Hsinchu City yesterday. The annual event was attended by Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Chen Yen-po (陳彥伯); Tourism Bureau Director-General Chang Shi-chung (張錫聰); Taiwan Visitors Association chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭); South Korean Representative to Taiwan Chung Byung-won; Yoon Ji-sook, an official at the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and Korea Association of Travel Agents chairman Oh Chang-hee. Global tourism is expected to soon rebound to between 55 and
DAMAGE CONTROL: The KMT in a statement called the Taiwan Strait ‘international waters,’ after Alexander Huang said China had the right to claim it as internal waters Lawmakers and experts yesterday accused the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) envoy to the US Alexander Huang (黃介正) of acting as China’s stooge, after he said that Beijing has the right to claim waters beyond its maritime territory as its exclusive economic zone and that the US has no legal basis to assert that the Taiwan Strait is an “international waterway.” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said in an online post that most of the world considers the Strait an international waterway, adding that this is important for safeguarding Taiwan. “We have seen US warships transiting through the Taiwan Strait.
The Taichung District Court yesterday sentenced to nine years in prison an unlicensed judo coach who caused the death of a seven-year-old student after slamming him onto the ground more than a dozen times. In its decision against the coach, a man surnamed Ho (何), the court cited his lack of remorse for using excessive force against an inadequately trained child and his failure to reconcile with the parents for his role in their son’s death. Speaking on behalf of the boy’s mother, Taichung City Councilor Jacky Chen (陳清龍) said the family would appeal to a higher court. Prosecutors said that Ho on