The government does not ban people from traveling abroad to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but, to curb the spread of the virus, travel agencies are prohibited from organizing overseas tours, the Tourism Bureau said on Wednesday.
Chinese-language media have reported that some travel agencies had been offering tours to the US that were to include vaccinations.
The offerings came amid limited supply of vaccines in Taiwan, while US businesses, including Walmart and drug store chains, offer vaccinations to people regardless of nationality, the reports said.
One of the advertised tours, priced at NT$200,000, included two vaccine doses and visits to tourist sites over the course of one month in the US, they said.
China Airlines and EVA Airways have raised the number of flights to the US due to rising demand, the reports said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) yesterday said that the government should allow people to join overseas tour groups to get vaccinated.
“Facing the COVID-19 outbreak, many have lost hope that the government will be able to import more vaccines and have severe doubts over locally developed vaccines,” he said.
However, the Tourism Bureau has announced that travel agencies conducting such tours would be punished for contravening border control measures implemented by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Lin said, adding that the bureau might even revoke an agency’s license for helping people find a solution for themselves to the vaccine issue.
“Quite a few people have booked flights to other countries to get vaccinated. Others may want to go as well, but they cannot afford the trips. However, if people joined tours organized by travel agencies, which helps save travel costs, they could afford the vaccination,” Lin said, adding that prohibiting such tours is unreasonable.
The bureau said that travel agencies have since March 19 last year been required to suspend overseas group tours.
People who need to travel abroad could individually book tickets and accommodation through the agencies, it added.
“So far, we have not found any travel agency organizing vaccination tours. As cluster infections could arise from tour groups, we comply with the CECC’s border control measures and ask travel agencies to temporarily cease arranging overseas tours,” the bureau said. “That is not to say that we are banning people from traveling abroad to get vaccinated.”
Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥), who is deputy commander of the center, said that the airlines have increased flights to the US because of demand from Taiwanese living in the US who returned to the nation last year to avoid contracting the disease.
Many of them are flying back to the US, as many people there are fully vaccinated, he added.
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