Taipei, Jan. 31 (CNA) The annual Taipei International Comics and Animation Festival kicked off Friday with strict health measures in place, in an effort to prevent the potential spread of a new coronavirus that has been declared a global health emergency.
The event starts on the same day the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency over the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which originated in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China, last month.
Taiwan has confirmed nine people infected while China has already recorded 9,692 infections and 213 deaths since the virus was first identified, according to official statistics as of Friday.
Visitors, mostly students and young adults, to the venue at Taipei World Trade Center Nangang Exhibition Hall had their temperature taken and hands disinfected when the doors opened at 10 a.m.
Anyone with a temperature over 37.5 degrees Celsius, which indicates a fever, will be refused entry to the exhibition, said Huang Yung-hsueh (黃詠雪), chairperson of the Chinese Animation & Comic Publishers Association (CCPA), organizer of the festival.
"We have added two extra personnel at every entry point to check temperatures and spray disinfectant on hands," Huang said.
The disinfectant used is at least 75 percent alcohol, said CCPA secretary-general Roger Kao (高世椿).
"If anyone refuses to have their temperature taken or hands disinfected, they will be turned away," Kao said.
Visitors will also be asked to wear a medical-grade face mask, Kao said, adding that anyone not wearing a mask will be denied entry to the 500 stalls and pavilions at the festival.
"Our main focus now is disease prevention, nothing else matters," he said. "The whole of Taiwan is watching."
Because of the measures in place, entry to the event could take longer than in past years, Huang said.
However, one of the visitors, 14-year-old Wen Shih-teng (溫世騰), said he lined up for about two hours, when it took closer to four hours last year.
Another visitor, who was 20 years old and wished to be identified only as Chung Sheng (仲生), said he lined up for about 4 hours but felt there were fewer people than previous years because of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Meanwhile, a 39-year-old comic fan, identified only as Hsiung Hsiung (熊熊) said he lined up at 7:00 a.m. but it didn't take long to get in, unlike last year when he lined up the night before to make sure he could get the merchandise he wanted to buy.
"This year is not so bad, there aren't as many people as last year," he said, while showing five bags filled with Japanese fantasy comic Sword Art Online merchandise and Japanese manga series Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.
As of press time it was still too early to give an estimate as to the number of visitors on the opening day, Huang said.