Taiwan summons Italian representative over flight ban

02/03/2020 05:52 PM

Taipei, Feb. 3 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) summoned the representative of Italy Monday morning following a flight ban imposed by the European country on Taiwan amid fears over the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, CNA learned that day.

The Italian government on Jan. 31 announced a suspension of all flights from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan from Feb. 2 to April 28 to prevent the further spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

Nine airlines were affected by the measure, including Taiwan's China Airlines, which operates three round-trip flights per week between Taoyuan and Rome, and EVA Airways, which was set to start direct flights between Taoyuan and Milan later this month.

Taiwan's Deputy Foreign Minister Kelly Hsieh (謝武樵) summoned Davide Giglio, head of the Italian Economic, Trade and Cultural Promotion Office in Taipei on Monday morning to ask that the Italian government lift the flight restrictions imposed on Taiwan.

Meanwhile, MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said the ministry continues to communicate with the Italian government through its representative office in Taiwan and MOFA office in Italy, and is hopeful the matter can be quickly resolved. She did not provide any further details.

At a press conference Sunday, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) expressed regret over the Italian government's ban on flights from Taiwan and blamed the decision on "inaccurate information" from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Wu said the language used in the recommendation from the Italian health authorities supporting the ban was similar to that in a WHO situation report dated Feb. 1, which included Taiwan in a list of provinces, regions and cities in China with confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease.

In a table of confirmed cases worldwide, the WHO report listed China as having 11,821 cases and said they included "cases confirmed in Hong Kong SAR (13 confirmed cases), Macau SAR (7 confirmed cases) and Taipei (10 confirmed cases)."

The way the figures were presented in the WHO report creates the misconception Taiwan is part of China and a seriously infected area, Wu said.

He stressed that healthcare and flight information regions in Taiwan and China are administered by separate and independent authorities. As such, flights from Taiwan should not be restricted along with those from China and its special administrative regions.

Vietnam's civil aviation authorities announced a similar ban on flights to and from Taiwan on Feb. 1 for a period of 90 days, but that was later reversed after Taipei explained the situation to Hanoi, according to MOFA.

(By Ku Chuan and Emerson Lim)

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