Passenger volume drops at Taiwan’s main airport due to COVID-19

Taipei, The daily volume of passengers at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the country's main gateway, has continued to decline since Taiwan included a longer list of countries in its highest travel alert Tuesday, as part of its efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the airport handled 12,000 passengers, the second lowest daily number so far this month, while the daily average for the month was 19,000 as of that date, the NIA said.

The daily volume in the preceding four days, March 13-16, was 12,000, 14,000, 15,000 and 13,000, respectively, according to the NIA.

In comparison, the passenger volume at the airport averaged about 150,000 per day in January, which included the seven-day the Lunar New Year holiday, and in February it was 70,000 per day, the NIA said.

The significantly lower numbers in recent days reflect the efforts by Taiwan, as well as other countries worldwide, to slow the spread of the COVID-19 by means of travel restrictions, the NIA said.

It said, however, that when Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on March 14 announced that it was raising its travel warning for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and 27 countries in Europe to its highest level with effect from March 17, arrivals at the Taoyuan airport increased March 14-17 as people rushed to get back to Taiwan.

Many nations across the world have banned nonessential travel to Taiwan and other countries, while the Taiwanese government has extended its Level 3 travel alert to virtually all of Asia, Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Dubai in the United Emirates, requiring all arriving passengers from those countries and areas to self-quarantine for 14 days.

As Taiwan clamped down even harder Wednesday on travel, banning the entry of all foreign nationals with few exceptions, passenger volume at the Taoyuan airport is expected to drop further, according to an airline employee who asked not to be named.

Amid the tightening travel restrictions in Taiwan and other countries, international flights in and out of the airport have also been reduced, the employee said.

With Taiwan's latest travel ban set to take effect Thursday, some foreign airlines have rescheduled their flights to depart Taiwan on Wednesday instead of Thursday, carrying all of their crew members, according to the employee.

Other airlines are considering canceling all flights to Taiwan, while some are looking at the possibility of carrying a relief crew to take over on their outbound flights since their crew members will not be permitted to overnight in Taiwan, the employee said.

The CECC said it has been coordinating with several airlines to come up with a plan that would allow foreign flight crew to transit in Taiwan, but not to stay over.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel