Tourism Bureau rolls out new protocol after COVID-19 controversy

A tourist service center at Taoyuan International Airport/ CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau on Wednesday announced a new protocol on how its employees can welcome guests at the airport, after a staffer stationed at the airport was infected with COVID-19 by a person he was asked to meet upon arrival.

The new protocol, effective immediately, stipulates that any division within the bureau that is planning on welcoming guests at the airport must apply for permission three days before the guests are set to arrive.

The application must be approved by the head of the division, the bureau said.

If, for some reason, the application is not filed three days beforehand, the division must obtain approval from Tourism Bureau officials at the Chief Secretary level or above.

When the guest being welcomed has courtesy clearance, the application must include the approvals for that clearance given by the Customs Administration and the National Immigration Agency, the bureau said.

The new rules apply to all visitors being received by Tourism Bureau staff, without exception, it said.

Previously, there were no official procedures to be followed by bureau personnel when welcoming guests at the airport.

The new protocol comes three weeks after a controversy involving a high-ranking Tourism Bureau official, whose actions led to one of his colleagues becoming infected with COVID-19.

The official asked a staffer working at a Taoyuan International Airport visitor information center to meet and accompany his son, who was returning from the Philippines, while the son was waiting to be picked up by the official.

The official’s son, who is in his 20s, was later confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, which he likely passed on to the staffer while they had coffee together at the airport, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

Quarantine regulations already in place at that time required everyone returning from overseas to go directly home and self-quarantine for 14 days.

The staffer then infected his five-year-old son, resulting in his kindergarten being shut down for 14 days, though none of the teachers or classmates have been reportedly infected, the CECC said.

The official, who is under investigation for abuse of his position and violating other bureau rules, has been issued a major demerit and demoted. The head of the Tourism Bureau at the time, Chou Yung-hui (周永暉), has also been demoted.