Many diseases linked to PM2.5‘AIR POLLUTION SEASON’: The EPA said air pollution this spring has not been as bad as in previous years, due to closed factories in China as a result of COVID-19By Lo Chi / Staff reporterMany diseases have been linked to air pollution consisting of fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) and people should protect themselves, a doctor said yesterday. The problem of air pollution cannot be solved by any single agency or group, he said. Drawing attention to the risks posed by PM2.5, Chiang said that small particulate matter damages pulmonary membranes, just as a coronavirus attacks lung tissue. Particles of PM2.5 can dissolve into pulmonary alveolus and even blood vessels, causing infection in all of a person’s vessels, he said. In addition to pulmonary diseases, PM2.5 has been linked to numerous diseases throughout the human body, Chiang said.
March 07, 2020 15:56 UTC
Book’s claims not enough to charge Ko, prosecutors sayBy Chen Wei-tzu and William Hetherington / Staff reporter, with staff writerThe Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office on Friday said that it would not indict Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) over an author’s allegations of his participation in organ harvesting of Falun Gong members in China. “Ko was a potential conduit to Taiwanese patients,” Gutmann told a news conference on Oct. 2, 2018, adding that this created a “perverse incentive” to harvest the organs of Falun Gong members. Wu said that Ko in 2008 arranged for Taiwanese patients to receive transplants in China, was aware that the organs came from Falun Gong members and had bartered with Chinese doctors on their prices. Ko was also being paid to help China develop its organ transplant system based on Taiwan’s system, Wu said. Taipei City Government deputy spokeswoman Huang Ching-ying welcomed the prosecutors’ statement, saying that the case had caused “unwarranted turmoil and a waste of public resources” during the 2018 mayoral election.
March 07, 2020 15:56 UTC
Virus Outbreak: Virus may spread across EU, US in 30 days: ministerBy Sean Lin / Staff reporterIt is “very likely” that COVID-19 would spread across North America and Europe in 30 days, and the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is doing all it can to prevent such a scenario from affecting the nation, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) told lawmakers yesterday. It is “very likely” that the epidemic would spread across North America and Europe in the next 30 days, said Chen, who heads the center. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung, left, and Premier Su Tseng-chang yesterday take part in a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei. Excluding the confirmed cases aboard the ship, Japan had about 300 cases, which is more serious than Taiwan, considering the difference in the two nations’ population sizes, but not more serious than Italy, Chen said. When the center issued a level 2 “alert” for Italy, it had 229 confirmed cases, but the nation has a population of about 60 million compared with Japan’s 120 million, he said.
The class-action lawsuit was filed by the RCA Self-Help Association, which is made up of former employees and deceased workers’ families. Former Radio Corp of America (RCA) workers, RCA Self-Help Association members, lawyers and judicial reform groups protest behind a banner that reads: “Regrettable ruling in disregard of workers’ rights to health,” outside the High Court in Taipei yesterday. Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei TimesIn August 2018, the Supreme Court ordered RCA to pay NT$564.45 million in compensation to 262 of the plaintiffs — either former workers who developed cancer or other illnesses, or family members of deceased workers. “The litigation has gone through first and second rulings, the Supreme Court and a retrial at the High Court, but during the trial hearing, the judges were deferential to the experts who were called as witnesses, and did not ask questions. That ruling has been appealed by both sides to the High Court.
Seafaring link aids Australia MuslimsReuters, GOVE PENINSULA, AustraliaCenturies before Captain James Cook claimed Australia for Britain in 1770, Muslim Makassan sailors from Indonesia regularly traveled thousands of kilometers across open sea to trade with Aboriginal people in Australia’s far north. The project is the brainchild of the Abu Hanifa Institute, an organization promoting education, identity and inclusiveness for Muslims in Sydney. Women shake hands with Makassan sailors during a welcoming ceremony in Yirrkala, Australia, on Tuesday last week. The 15m vessel was built by Makassan artisans on a beach in Sulawesi using traditional methods and local timber. Muslim and Aboriginal leaders both wanted to share the history more widely, including getting the story of the Yolngu and Makassan relationship into school curriculums.
Virus Outbreak: Tainan promotes outdoor weddingsBy Yang Ching-cheng and Dennis Xie / Staff reporter, with staff writerThe Tainan Tourism Bureau is collaborating with local wedding, travel and hospitality companies to promote outdoor wedding services, hoping to boost tourism amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As people avoid crowded indoor spaces to prevent infection, outdoor tourist destinations are gaining popularity, inspiring the city to launch a special campaign to promote the local wedding and tourism industry, Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said yesterday. Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che, fourth left, newlyweds, and representatives from tourism and wedding companies hold gifts at a promotional event at Jianshanpi Jiangnan Resort in Tainan’s Liuying District yesterday. Photo: Yang Chin-cheng, Taipei TimesThe other approved applicants would receive six of the gifts, Kuo added. Information about the promotion is available online at www.twtainan.net/zh-tw/event/activitydetail/3881.
Virus Outbreak: Local governments preparing kits for home quarantineTHAT’S ENTERTAINMENT: Many governments are working with firms such as Line, KKBox and Shopee so that people can stream video and music, and shopBy Kuo Hsuan-hsuan and Dennis Xie / Staff reporter, with staff writerTo support people undergoing a 14-day home quarantine due to COVID-19, local governments are preparing “quarantine care bags,” with items such as masks, food, soap and access to streaming services. The Pingtung County Government said it would provide communication information in its kits for people that need help during the quarantine period. The Yunlin County Government said that its kits include information sheets, masks, soap, a towel, packets of dried noodle snacks and a can of sweet mixed congee. The New Taipei City Government said that people would receive “physical and digital care bags,” with the former including 14 masks, information sheets and a care letter from the mayor. It also has 3,000 codes for 14 days of unlimited viewing on video platforms Catchplay, myVideo and Line TV, it added.
The 45th patient is a woman in her 50s who had been hospitalized in the same ward as Taiwan’s 34th novel coronavirus patient, the CECC said. EVA Air cabin crew walk through Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday. Growers said that orchid sales have declined after Japanese customers canceled orders due to a COVID-19 outbreak. In other developments, the CECC yesterday said that 19 Taiwanese evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan would be discharged from quarantine today. The move comes after none of them were confirmed as having contracted COVID-19 after a third round of testing, it said.
Fund outflows reach US$3.89bnBy Kao Shih-ching / Staff reporterThe nation’s net foreign fund outflow totaled US$3.89 billion last month, the first outflow over the past six months, as foreign institutional investors continued to sell local shares amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) data showed. “That reflected weak confidence among foreign institutional investors amid the ongoing outbreak. However, the commission was not concerned about last month’s net outflow, as the amount was not particularly big, Wu said. Last month’s difference between the amount of fund outflow and the amount of foreign institutional investors’ selling could be because some investors did not immediately move their funds out of Taiwan, Wu said. Chinese institutional investors reported a net fund outflow of US$3.7 million after selling a net NT$316 million in local shares last month, the commission’s data showed.
The six-satellite constellation, which gathers weather data between 50° north and south latitude, was launched into orbit on June 25 last year, another major Taiwan-US collaborative program following the Formosat-3/COSMIC constellation launched in 2006. In addition to improving forecasts, the data would advance projections of space weather events that can affect the precision of information and communication facilities, Wang said. Space weather forecasts are receiving mounting attention with the development of autonomous vehicles, which use GPS, Lin said. The atmospheric data gathered by the Tri-GNSS Radio Occultation System, which was part of each Formosat-7 satellite’s payload, would be available first, said National Space Organization (NSPO) member Chu Chung-hui (朱崇惠), the head of the Formosat-7 project in Taiwan. There are 10 ground stations — in Taiwan; Guam; Hawaii; Darwin, Australia; Mauritius; Kuwait; Ghana; Cuiaba, Brazil; Honduras; and Tahiti — that can receive Formosat-7 data, the NSPO said.
Public library visits surpass 100m for first time: reportBy Sherry Hsiao / Staff reporterVisits to public libraries in the nation last year exceeded 100 million for the first time, an annual Ministry of Education report said. That was an increase of 22.83 million visits, or 24.82 percent, from 2018, the report said. On average, Taiwanese last year visited public libraries 4.86 times and borrowed 3.44 items. As of last year, 16.89 million public library cards had been issued, up from 15.95 million in 2018, it added. Continued growth across various indicators demonstrates public libraries’ commitment to promoting their services, as well as a passion for reading, the department said.
By Kao Shih-ching / Staff reporterThe Chinese branches of Taiwanese banks reported zero nonperforming loans (NPLs) in January — the first time in more than 26 months, Financial Supervisory Commission data showed. That came after CTBC Bank (中國信託銀行) wrote off NT$31 million (US$1.032 million) in bad debt in January, while the other banks did not see any increase in nonperforming loans, the data showed. However, it would be too early to conclude that banks would tighten lending standards amid fears over the outbreak in China, Chiu said. The Chinese branches are not likely to slow their lending business, as the loans provide better interest income given higher interest rates in China, he said. Meanwhile, the nation’s banks reported an annual decline of 6.7 percent in pretax profit to NT$34.91 billion as the Lunar New Year holiday led to fewer working days, the data showed.
About 60 percent of respondents in a survey of AmCham members expressed confidence in Taiwan’s economic growth in the next 12 months, a sharp increase from 46 percent last year. “The level of confidence would likely have been higher, if not for the coronavirus outbreak that erupted during the survey period” from January to Feb. 17, AmCham chairman C.W. The chamber is the most influential international business organization in Taiwan, with about 1,000 members from more than 500 companies in the global business community. Member firms expressed satisfaction about how the government is coping with COVID-19, which has infected 42 people in Taiwan — less than in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, Chin said. Manufacturing member firms in Taiwan have maintained normal operations, but tourism-oriented firms, such as hotels and airlines, were taking a hit, Chin said.
The ban aims to ensure an adequate domestic supply of thermometers for combating the COVID-19 outbreak, it said. Travelers do not need to apply with the authorities to carry two thermometers through customs, it added. Customs officers have been instructed to check packages for thermometers during the ban, Customs Administration Deputy Director-General Peng Ying-wei (彭英偉) said. The ban applies to infrared thermometers, forehead contact thermometers, ear thermometers, digital thermometers and thermal imaging cameras, but not to mercury thermometers. The government previously implemented a ban on the export of masks, which on Feb. 13 was extended until the end of next month.
By Shelley Shan / Staff reporterThe government would use all available resources to help the nation’s two largest airlines weather a crisis caused by COVID-19, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said yesterday. However, there have been concerns that the budget might not be sufficient to cover all of the financial losses sustained by travel agencies and airlines. We should exhaust all possible means to support them under such a challenging situation,” Lin said. “We also hope that they will hang in there, and not ask travel agencies and travelers to share their losses,” he said. “Should the global COVID-19 outbreak persist, we will recommend that the government prepare a special bailout package for airlines,” he added.