CECC holds daily press briefing in southern Taiwan to promote travel

KAOHSIUNG (CNA) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) held its daily briefing on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic Sunday in the tourism hotspot of Kenting in southern Taiwan amid efforts to promote local travel as the disease eases off.

It was the first time the CECC had held the briefing outside Taipei since its daily broadcast started in January, and Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the CECC, said he encourages local travel, as long as social distancing is observed.

Taiwan is at little risk of community outbreak, as no local transmissions have been reported for 41 consecutive days, Chen said, adding that restrictions on travel could be loosened, first from domestic travel and then to overseas travel.

“The relaxing of these restrictions should be step by step, and the key is to not to fall over,” he said.

As many as 25 items of Pingtung County produce and souvenirs were presented at the press conference, including mangoes, lemons, groupers, orchids and papayas.

Chen’s visit drew large crowds to the scenic area in the southernmost part of Taiwan, where a tourism downturn was reported during the April 2-5 Tomb Sweeping Day break after the government issued national-level alerts for visits to major tourist spots in Taiwan, as many vacationers were seen to be not observing the proper coronavirus prevention guidelines.

A sign reminding visitors to Kenting to wear a face mask and follow social distancing rules is pictured Saturday night.

Travel to popular tourist spots such as Kenting has dropped significantly since, and the local tourism sector is hoping that the government can relax its travel and transportation rules — including suspension of non-reserved tickets on the high speed railway and during holidays — to boost travel interest.

However, the rules, as well as the suspension of all outbound and inbound tours imposed on Taiwanese travel agencies are unlikely to be lifted by the end of June.

According to local media reports, the Tourism Bureau is nevertheless planning tourism promotional campaigns, pending review by the CECC.

The campaigns will subsidize the group travel sector to the tune of NT$700 (US$23) per person per day, while the independent travel sector will enjoy a subsidy of NT$1,000 per room per night, the reports said.

In addition, discounts will be offered for theme park visits and Taiwan tour bus rides, with the overall NT$3.9 billion package expected to create 5.24 million trips and NT$19 billion in business value, the bureau said.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (sitting, left) and Pingtung County Magistrate Pan Men-an (in white shirt) play a game with the elderly at a daycare center in the southern county Sunday. / Photo courtesy of the Pingtung County Government