Relaxed rules on mask wearing criticized by railway workers

Passengers wearing face masks getting on and off a high-speed railway train / CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — With the COVID-19 situation in Taiwan easing, Taiwan began on Sunday to ease rules on wearing masks in the country’s trains, but the new protocols were criticized by railway workers as confusing and “nonsensical.”

Rank and file workers at the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) and Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) said Sunday that the revised rule on mask wearing on trains only made the situation more confusing.

Some even criticized the constant hassle of needing to wear and then take off the mask as “nonsensical.”

Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) responded Monday that the relaxed rule on mask wearing on trains was put in place to give riders the option to take their masks off as long as social distancing could be observed.

The easing of the rules for trains came as Taiwan began on Sunday to lift some of its restrictions on large gatherings, social distancing and the need for face masks because of the low number of cases of COVID-19 in the country in recent weeks.

In terms of mask wearing, passengers will still be required to wear a mask and have their temperature taken at ticket gates, but will be allowed to take them off if they can maintain proper social distancing in waiting areas, on platforms or aboard trains.

If proper social distancing cannot be maintained, however, passengers will be required to wear a mask for the entire trip.

Speaking at a press event in Taipei, Lin said feedback from the public has generally been positive, although there were still some people caught trying to pass through ticket gates without a mask.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), said people need to get accustomed to a new lifestyle of having a face mask readily available whenever they go out for situations that may require its use.

Chen said it needs to become a habit because there will likely be the need to wear a mask in certain situations until a vaccine for COVID-19 is discovered.