Taiwan bans travel by military personnel to contain virus spread

Images for illustrative purposes only (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Saturday temporarily suspended all overseas travel by the country’s military personnel, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Shih Shun-wen (史順文), the MND’s spokesman, told CNA that his ministry decided to implement the ban due to the rising threat of the coronavirus outbreak, which has turned into a global pandemic.

All military personnel whose applications for overseas travel have already been approved prior to the implementation of the ban will be persuaded to delay or cancel their trips, Shih said.

However, if there are military personnel who insist on traveling overseas, they will need special approval by a superior officer and will be required to be in quarantine for 14 days after they return, Shih said.

The MND regards disease prevention as serious as combat, and will continue to adopt various contingency preparations under the guidance of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Shih said.

Meanwhile, focus will be placed on maintaining normal training duties and ensuring the combat capability of the country’s military, Shih said.

The travel ban came after the World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the acute respiratory disease outbreak a pandemic.

It follows on from a previous travel advisory which the government implemented in February. The advisory covers 29 countries and territories listed by Taiwan as posing risks of infections for travelers. Shih said the travel advisory was meant to prevent an outbreak among troops responsible for national security.

The 29 countries and territories are: China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Germany, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, India, the Philippines, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Finland, Cambodia, Nepal, Belgium, Sweden, Egypt, and Iran.

Last month, the CECC also announced a temporary prohibition on overseas travel for the country’s frontline doctors and nurses working in hospitals. It explained that with the current shortage of manpower in the health care system, Taiwan cannot afford to put its medical personnel into 14-day quarantine when they return from trips abroad.

As of Saturday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Taiwan was at 53, with one death.

Images for illustrative purposes only (CNA)

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