Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Taiwan on H7N9 alert amid Chinese holiday travel surge

Taipei, April 30 (CNA) Taiwan is tightening up disease control measures against the H7N9 bird flu virus during China's national holiday, when over 15,000 Chinese group tourists are expected to visit Taiwan from April 29-May 1, the Tourism Bureau said Tuesday.

Taiwan could see 15,170 group tourists over China's three-day Labor Day holiday, the bureau said, adding that up to 6,000 more independent tourists are likely to arrive under a travel program that allows Chinese nationals to travel to Taiwan without having to be part of a tour group.

Although the tourist influx could remain similar to the level during last year's holiday between May 1-3, the bureau said, it has asked travel agencies across the Taiwan Strait to take extra precautionary measures.

Public concerns have arouse on whether a holiday travel surge could threaten Taiwan's epidemic control against the H7N9 avian flu outbreak in China, which has reported 125 confirmed H7N9 cases as of April 29, according to Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control.

Nearly half of the group tourists come from the areas under Taiwan's level-2 travel advisory. Those areas have reported cases of bird flu. The advisory asks travelers to exercise extreme caution and take strong protective measures if they have to visit the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu, Henan, Zhejiang, Anhui, Shandong, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Hunan, or the cities of Shanghai and Beijing.

But Yang Yeong-sheng, director of the bureau's Hotel, Travel and Training Division, said there is no need for panic about Chinese tourists coming here.

"The rumors could do harm to the travel industry," he said, explaining that there is no proof that the virus can be transmitted among humans.

He stressed that the bureau has asked tour guides to keep high alert on the tourists' health condition, and asked hotels to provide free surgical masks upon requests.
As to individual travelers, Yang said the bureau has distributed leaflets with information on where to seek local medical treatment to some 100 Chinese travel agencies providing services to the travelers.
(By Lee Hsin-Yin)

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