WUHAN VIRUS/Premier urges public not to panic after 1st Wuhan virus case confirmed

01/21/2020 10:54 PM
Premier Su Tseng-chang (center)
Premier Su Tseng-chang (center)

Taipei, Jan. 21 (CNA) Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) on Tuesday urged the public to remain calm and not panic after Taiwan reported the first confirmed case of a new type of coronavirus earlier in the day, carried by a Taiwanese woman who was recently in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

On his Facebook page, Su said Taiwan has 44 million surgery masks and 1.93 million N95 particulate respirator masks that will be released onto the market if necessary.

"Please don't panic," Su said. "Also please don't hoard masks."

Su said during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, the government will watch closely how the situation develops, while advising Taiwanese people to enjoy the holiday, which starts on Thursday and runs through Jan. 29.

In the first confirmed case, a Taiwanese woman who works in Wuhan reported to quarantine officials at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport that she had a fever on returning Monday, according to an epidemic response command center established Monday to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

The woman was immediately placed in quarantine and later tested positive for the pneumonia-like virus dubbed the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the center said.

At the end of last year, an unspecified type of pneumonia broke out in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. As of Tuesday, Beijing had confirmed almost 300 cases, with at least six dead.

In addition to efforts by the government to prevent the spread of the unspecific coronavirus, Su said, the Cabinet is also gearing up to prevent the impact of African Swine fever and help people return home for the new year holiday.

"Safeguarding the health of the people, protecting Taiwan's pork and allowing people to return home safely are the Executive Yuan's top priorities during the holiday," Su said in his Facebook post.

"The government will not relax for even one moment."

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has upgraded its travel alert for Wuhan by raising its travel advisory to the highest level in its three-tier system following the first confirmed case of coronavirus originally from the Chinese city.

In response to the upgraded travel advisory, the Tourism Bureau said tourists are eligible for a refund from travel agencies that have arranged their trips to Wuhan if they choose not to go.

Alternatively, tourists may also be asked by travel agencies to postpone their travel plans or change their destinations, the bureau said.

In the event of disputes, customers can file a complaint with the bureau or the Travel Quality Assurance Association.

Following the first confirmed case of the Wuhan coronavirus, carriers in Taiwan have come up with measures to protect their passengers.

Among them, China Airlines, one of the leading international carriers in Taiwan, said it has stepped up efforts to disinfect blankets used by passengers on flights from Wuhan, while broadcasting educational films to increase passengers' awareness of the new virus.

For its part, EVA Airways, another large international Taiwanese carrier, said all its flights have surgery masks and N95 masks, adding that all flights will be thoroughly disinfected after journeys.

In the meantime, Lion Travel, one of the largest travel agencies in Taiwan, said it and its subsidiary UPlan Travel will stop taking tours to Hubei by the end of February so consumers who have purchased tours to the Chinese province that depart after February will be eligible for a refund.

South East Travel Service said it previously stopped all tours to Wuhan in January and February, but has now also canceled tours originally scheduled to depart in March.

(By Elaine Hou, Chen Chih-chung, Yu Hsiao-han and Frances Huang)

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