Tours to China halted amid deadly virus outbreak

The death toll from the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, reached 41 in China as of Friday, 39 of which were in Hubei province. (CNA)
The death toll from the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, reached 41 in China as of Friday, 39 of which were in Hubei province. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Tourism Bureau has notified travel agencies to suspend their tours to China after Beijing ordered a halt to inbound and outbound group tours amid the outbreak of a deadly respiratory virus in that country.

The bureau issued the notice to tour operators Friday to suspend all tours to China from Saturday to Jan. 31 and provide refunds based on the provisions of the standard contract, the Travel Agent Association of R.O.C. Taiwan said in a statement.

That came after China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism ordered travel agencies and tourism companies to suspend operations and stop selling tour packages beginning Friday, Tourism Bureau Director-General Chou Yung-hui (周永暉) said on the bureau’s Facebook page.

Harula Tour Travel Service said it did not have any tours scheduled for Saturday but will cancel a two-week tour to China starting Sunday.

Harula Chairman Ringo Lee (李奇嶽) said his company had already begun handling requests for cancellations or refunds for tour packages to China.

Lion Travel Service Co. indicated it will call off tours to China scheduled for between Sunday and Feb. 3, while Cola Tours said it will halt all China tours before the end of February.

In a related measure, Taiwan announced Friday a month-long ban on the export of two types of surgical masks — those designed to filter out 95 percent of small particles, commonly known as N95 masks, and other masks made of fiber.

With that measure in place, Taiwan’s supply of face masks will be sufficient, said Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).

The death toll from the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December, reached 41 in China as of Friday, 39 of which were in Hubei province.

More than 1,300 people have been infected globally, including 1,287 in China.

Doctor Liang Wudong (梁武東) of Hubei Xinhua Hospital in Wuhan became the first Chinese medical specialist to succumb to the infectious disease when he died of the virus on Saturday, according to a report by online media ThePaper.cn.

Liang sought medical attention at Hubei’s Jinyintan hospital on Jan. 18 after contracting the virus a few days earlier, the report said, citing a staffer at Xinhua hospital.