Experts yesterday said that airports should enhance disinfection and divide airport workers into groups that are kept separate to avoid cluster infections as border control measures for COVID-19 are eased.
A cluster of COVID-19 infections occurred in January among Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport workers, including janitors, security guards, luggage cart handlers and disease prevention taxi drivers assigned to passenger pick-up.
The cluster led to thousands of workers being screened and a group of experts inspecting the airport’s disease prevention procedures.
Among UK-based consultancy Skytrax’s list of World’s Cleanest Airports, Taoyuan airport’s ranking has been falling since 2017, and it was excluded from the top 10 airports this year.
“We should not make the same mistake again,” Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said.
As the COVID-19 pandemic eases and other countries have reopened their borders, Taiwan is beginning to lift some of its border restrictions, he said.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
As new subvariants of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged, airport environmental sanitation management is the first line of defense, Tsai said.
In addition to arranging proper passenger flow to avoid infections, airports could recruit more janitors and improve their disease prevention knowledge to prevent cluster infections, he said.
Chinese International Logistics and Transportation Association chairperson Lee Mi (李彌) said Taoyuan airport is the nation’s primary gate to the world, so the many people moving through it could easily spread the virus.
Airport janitors should be divided into separate groups that work shifts in specific areas, he said, adding that the airport’s two terminals could be cleaned by two separate companies to reduce the risk of infections and increase efficiency, as they would be competing with one another.
Janitors should also receive more on-the-job training to enhance their hygiene and safety knowledge, Lee said.
Taipei Medical Association council member Chou Hsien-jang (周賢章) said that Taiwan is facing outbreaks of the Omicron subvariants BA.4, BA.5 and BA.2.75 later than many countries, so it could learn from the measures they have taken.
Taiwan also has National Health Insurance and an efficient healthcare system, so it should focus on how to best make use of its medical resources, he added.
In related news, Japanese travel agents and tour operators, invited by the Tourism Bureau, arrived at Taoyuan airport yesterday afternoon.
Taiwan closed its borders to tourists in March 2020, and as the government has decided to gradually reopen to foreign visitors, the Tourism Bureau applied to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) to allow the group to enter under the “business bubble” model.
The 25 Japanese travel agents and tour operators are taking part in a four-day familiarization trip. They are not required to follow the “3+4” quarantine rule, but a negative polymerase chain reaction test is still required.
The group is to visit several tourist destinations in northern Taiwan, including Taipei 101, New Taipei City’s Pingsi District (平溪), the colorful houses at Keelung’s Zhengbin Fishing Port (正濱漁港) and Keelung’s Heping Island Park (和平島公園), as well as take a ride on the double-decker Taipei Sightseeing Bus.
Taiwan yesterday recorded 20,824 new local COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths, the CECC said.
The deceased were aged in their 20s to over 90. Twelve of those who died were unvaccinated, while 33 had chronic illnesses or other severe diseases, it said.
Additional reporting by Lee I-chia and CNA
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