Big gatherings canceled across Taiwan due to coronavirus scare

CNA file photo
CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — New Taipei, Taipei, Tainan and other cities on Wednesday announced the cancellation or suspension of large scale school and sporting events in their cities, in a bid to control the rising number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Taiwan.

At a municipal meeting, New Taipei Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) issued a directive for all schools in the city to cancel their scheduled graduation trips to prevent cluster infections of COVID-19.

Other big gatherings, including temple events, which would bring together large numbers of people in close contact, must also be canceled, Hou said, adding that the directives were effective immediately.

In addition, he said, the city is stepping up its disinfection efforts on the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) and is making it mandatory for teachers and students at cram schools, after-school care centers and tutoring institutes to wear masks.

The city is also extending the face mask regulation to people in enclosed spaces and on the MRT and other public transportation, Hou said.

He said New Taipei, Taipei and the central government are working together in the fight against the COVID-19. In New Taipei, the focus has shifted from containment of the epidemic to mitigating the fallout from its spread, Hou said.

Later Wednesday, the Taipei City government announced similar measures, suspending all large-scale school activities until May 4. These include field trips, graduation trips, overnight camping, school celebrations, school fairs, garden parties and swimming training, according to Taipei Department of Education Chief Secretary Chen Su-hui (陳素慧).

The education bureaus in Kaohsiung, Taichung and Changhua also said Wednesday that they had already instructed schools days or weeks before to postpone graduation trips and other large group activities to April or May.

Commenting on the decisions, Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said he respected the local governments’ initiative to adopt more stringent regulations regarding educational field trips.

Meanwhile, the Tainan City government said it was canceling an ironman triathlon scheduled for March 8 in the city, which was expected to attract more than 1,000 athletes, including 20 from seven Asian countries.