WUHAN VIRUS/Taiwan tightens restrictions on people with recent Hubei travel history

01/26/2020 03:40 PM
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), center.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), center.

Taipei, Jan. 26 (CNA) People arriving in Taiwan who have recently been to Hubei province in China will now be subject to compulsory home confinement for 14 days, the government announced Sunday as it continues to beef up its preventive efforts against the deadly 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

The new measure will apply to all travelers, regardless of nationality, and those who do not follow the regulation will have to serve the confinement period at a government-established quarantine site, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced at a press event in Taipei.

Details of how the new measure will be implemented remained sketchy, but the government will get each traveler's recent travel history from health cards to be filled out on inbound flights from China and turned in to health authorities at the airport.

During the confinement period, people should closely monitor their health, including their temperature, and those who develop a fever or symptoms of an upper respiratory infection should wear a surgical mask and contact local health authorities, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Previously, only those suspected of having the coronavirus or who had come into close contact with a person confirmed as having the coronavirus were subject to compulsory confinement in their places of residence for 14 days.

Though the epidemic appears to be spreading beyond Hubei and its capital Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated, Chen said those arriving in Taiwan from other parts of China who have not been in Hubei recently will not be subject to home confinement.

They will regularly be checked on by quarantine officials, however, to monitor their health condition, Chen said.

The latest measures were announced after the Kaohsiung city government on Saturday said it would fine a Taiwanese man NT$300,000 (US$9,987) for not reporting his illness after returning home from Wuhan.

The man is one of three confirmed cases of infections from the 2019-nCoV in Taiwan so far.

The patient did not tell relevant authorities that he had upper respiratory problems before arriving in Taiwan at Kaohsiung International Airport on Jan. 21.

The man in his 50s visited a dance club in Kaohsiung on Jan. 22 without wearing a surgical mask, sparking fears that others at the club that day may have been infected as well.

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), an epidemiologist by training, called on Taiwanese on Sunday not to conceal their travel history and health conditions upon returning home from China, given the recent case in Kaohsiung.

Such illegal behavior could hurt others, Chen said in a Facebook post, and he urged people to cooperate with epidemic control measures to prevent more cases of the virus in the country.

To prevent the spread of the virus at home, Taiwan has suspended all exchanges with Hubei province and extended its highest level travel warning Saturday to all of Hubei, from just Wuhan previously.

As of Sunday morning, 283 suspected cases of the Wuhan coronavirus had been reported in Taiwan, 92 of which were reported Sunday alone.

In 124 of the 283 cases, coronavirus infections have since been ruled out, while three were confirmed as coronavirus infections and the other 156 people still suspected of having the virus are currently under quarantine.

Since the new infectious disease emerged in Wuhan in December last year, China has reported 1,975 cases and 56 deaths as of Sunday morning.

A few cases have also been reported recently in other countries, including Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Nepal, the United States, France and Australia.

(By Chen Cheng-wei and Joseph Yeh)

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