CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan to ban food on public transport, halts large religious events

Taiwan’s government announced Saturday that eating on public transportation will be prohibited across the country from Sunday, while large non-socially distanced religious gatherings are to be halted with immediate effect and QR code-based contract tracing strictly followed by restaurant operators.

In view of the rising number of domestic COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, eating on trains, intercity buses, ferries and on domestic flights will be prohibited starting Sunday, Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said at a daily Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) press briefing.

While drinking water when taking medicine will be allowed, regular eating and drinking on public transport will be punishable by fines ranging from NT$3,000 (US$108) to NT$15,000, according to a Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) press release.

Furthermore, Wang said that effective immediately until the end of the Lunar New Year holiday period, venues such as airport terminals, bus stations and national parks need to observe sanitation protocols as if the country was on a Level 3 COVID-19 alert.

This means managers will need to increase the frequency with which facilities are disinfected, as the door handles on public restrooms and toilet seats are potential sources of transmission that must be disinfected more often, he explained.

In addition, some public restrooms at national freeway rest stops will be clearly marked and separated from the rest so passengers in quarantine taxis from the airport can stop and use them without interacting with other people.

Another new change, this time concerning quarantine taxis, is that travelers coming from the airport can now scan a barcode at a taxi counter and airport workers will guide them to their designated vehicle without having to fill out forms with a pen as had been standard previously, thereby reinforcing the zero contact policy, the transport minister said.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇), who was also at the event, said religious activities that can draw large gatherings such as parades and rushing to burn the first incense stick are suspended at places of worship.
This is to prevent a potential spike in the spread of COVID-19 as these activities are especially popular during the Lunar New Year holiday period, Hsu explained, indicating that eating and drinking are also not allowed at these venues.

Worshippers will have to wear a face mask at all times and have their temperatures and personal information taken at entrances to facilitate contact tracing, he said.

In other activities such as burning incense or making donations at temples, social distancing will need to be strictly observed both indoors and outdoors.

For any activity that could attract more than 500 attendees at places of worship, organizers need to present an infection prevention plan and will only be permitted to proceed with the agreement of the local government, he added.

Following this announcement, Taichung’s Dajia Jenn Lann Temple and the Yuchueh Chaojen Temple said they will follow the government’s guidelines and halt all relevant religious activities that draw large crowds.

The two temples said events such as the handing out of red envelopes to worshippers during Lunar New Year period will be halted.

At the CECC event, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the CECC, reminded the public to strictly observe the government’s QR code-based contact tracing protocol.

Regarding restaurant operators, Chen said those who are lenient and do not enforce the rule, will not be allowed to provide on-site dining.

The warning comes after two migrant workers who dined at a Taoyuan steakhouse in early January were found to have not observed the contact tracing protocol, which initially meant they were not identified following the cluster infections at the Tasty steakhouse in Taoyuan.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel