Taipei, All users of public transport will need to wear facial masks or risk a maximum fine of NT$15,000 (US$496), effective as of Friday, a top official from the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said, as parts of efforts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
At a daily press conference Friday, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the CECC, said users of public transport, including the high speed rail and various metro systems, will need to wear the masks or face fines of between NT$3,000 and NT$15,000.
“If we spot someone not wearing a mask, we will ask them to put one on and if they refuse to do so, we will fine them in accordance to the Communicable Disease Control Act,” Chen said.
Currently, passengers not wearing masks on trains belonging to the Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR) and the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) have been directed to purchase masks at nearby convenience stores, said CECC Deputy Commander Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥).
Taipei will be one of the first cities to implement the mechanism by banning all people not wearing masks from boarding buses or entering MRT stations from Saturday, according to a statement issued by the city’s Department of Health.
The reason for enforcing users of public transport to wear masks is because proper social distancing cannot be properly implemented in such situations, Chen Shih-chung said.
The CECC issued its first round of guidelines of social distancing Tuesday, recommending that people in Taiwan stay at least one meter apart outdoors and 1.5 meters apart indoors.
The guidelines were expanded the following day, saying that businesses that cannot implement the social distancing rules should close temporarily.
Speaking to the press Friday, Chen Shih-chung said social distancing is a preventative measure to contain COVID-19, even though Taiwan has not yet reached a lockdown level as has been the case in many other cities around the world.
“It will be too late if we implement social distancing after a lockdown has been announced,” Chen said.
As of Friday, Taiwan had recorded nine new infections, bringing the total to 348 since the coronavirus emerged in China at the end of last year, according to CECC statistics.
Globally, COVID-19 has infected some 990,338 patients in 181 countries and regions, including 238,820 in the U.S., 115,242 in Italy, 110,238 in Spain, 81,620 in China and 73,522 in Germany, with a total of 51,215 fatalities to date, according to the CECC.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel