TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A major fire erupted in Kaohsiung's Pier-2 Art Center at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning (March 9), forcing the fire department to dispatch 36 fire trucks and 78 personnel to tackle the blaze.
After receiving calls, the Kaohsiung City Fire Department rushed to the intersection of Xinhua Street and Dayong Road in Yancheng District and extinguished the fire after a two-hour-long effort. It said that the conflagration apparently erupted at the Bicycle Warehouse, which typically serves as an exhibition area and a large indoor bazaar.
While the cause has yet to be determined, no casualties or injuries were reported. Around 1,200 square meters were damaged by the flames, while nearly the entire building was compromised.
Since the Bicycle Warehouse is close to homes and the city's light rail line, the fire caused some panic in the surrounding neighborhood. Many local residents were forced to move their vehicles and leave their houses.
A few people living in the area also shared photos of the fire on Facebook. One netizen said he was woken up by the sirens from the fire trucks in the middle of the night, while another said she saw the roof of the warehouse collapse in less than an hour after the fire began.
During a media interview, Pier-2 Operation Center director Wang Hui-lin (王慧琳) explained that the Kaohsiung Cultural Affairs Bureau had rented the Bicycle Warehouse from a local resident and that it will seek to repair the damages. She added that no exhibition was going on at the warehouse this week, so only the structure of the building was affected by the blaze.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Monday (March 8) confirmed seven COVID-19 infections imported from Paraguay, the U.K., the Philippines, and Indonesia.
During a press conference, Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) ) announced seven imported infections, raising the country's total number of cases to 976. The latest cases include two Paraguayans, two Taiwanese, one Filipina, and two Indonesians.
Each had submitted a negative result of a coronavirus test taken within three days of their flight, and each was sent directly to their residence or a quarantine center upon arrival in Taiwan.
Chen said that cases 971 and 975 are a Paraguayan woman and man, respectively, both in their 20s. They left Paraguay on March 5 and transited through Brazil on their way to Dubai. They then flew to Taiwan, where they planned to study.
They were asymptomatic upon arrival but underwent coronavirus tests and were diagnosed on March 8. They were on the same flight as cases 972 and 973.
The health department has identified a total of 78 contacts of the pair, including 63 passengers who had sat in front of and behind them on the flight and 15 crew members. The passengers have been told to begin home isolation, while the crew members, who did not enter the country, will be notified through the World Health Organization National IHR Focal Point in their country.
Case No. 972 is a Taiwanese woman in her teens who has lived in the U.K. for a long period of time. She was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Jan. 18, but subsequent tests taken on Feb. 27 and March 3 came back negative.
On March 5, she returned to Taiwan, transferring through Dubai. She did not report any symptoms of the disease to quarantine officers when she arrived but still underwent a test.
On March 6, she reported experiencing a headache. The result of her test came back positive for COVID-19 on March 8.
The health department has identified five contacts in her case, all of whom were passengers who had sat directly behind and in front of her on her flight to Taiwan. They have since been told to undergo home isolation.
Case No. 973 is a Taiwanese woman in her 30s who went to the U.K. for study in January of 2020. During her stay there, she came in contact with a local coronavirus case.
On March 5, she returned to Taiwan via transfer flight in Dubai. When arrived, she did not report any symptoms to quarantine officers, but she underwent a coronavirus test.
She tested positive for COVID-19 on March 8. The health department has identified three contacts in her case, all of whom were passengers who had sat in front of and behind her during the flight.
The three passengers have been told to commence home isolation.
Case No. 974 is a Filipina in her 20s who came to Taiwan for work on Feb. 19. When she arrived in the country, she did not report any symptoms of the virus.
When her quarantine expired on March 6, she underwent a coronavirus test at her own expense, and the result came back positive for COVID-19 on March 8. She had a Ct value of 34 while testing negative for IgM antibodies and positive for IgG antibodies.
The health department has identified three contacts in her case, including one who has been told to undergo home isolation because they had not worn a mask when coming into contact with her. The two other contacts have only been asked to begin self-health monitoring, as they had worn masks when interacting with her.
Cases 976 and 977 are Indonesian males in their 20s and 30s, respectively. The two of them came to Taiwan for work on Feb. 21.
As their quarantines were coming to an end, they underwent coronavirus tests on March 6. Although neither had reported experiencing any symptoms of the disease, both tested positive for COVID-19 on March 8.
Since neither man had come in contact with others during their quarantine, the health department has not listed any contacts in their cases.
Since the outbreak began, Taiwan has carried out 177,749 COVID-19 tests, with 175,891 coming back negative. Out of the 976 officially confirmed cases, 860 were imported, 77 were local, 36 came from the Navy's "Goodwill Fleet," two were from a cargo pilot cluster, one was an unresolved case, and one (case No. 530) was removed as a confirmed case.
Up until now, 10 individuals have succumbed to the disease, while 932 have been released from hospital isolation, leaving 34 patients still undergoing treatment in Taiwan.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Mask wearing has become a way of life during the pandemic, but is it legal for companies to dictate the colors of masks their employees can wear?
The answer is yes, according to Kaohsiung City’s Labor Affairs Bureau.
One Kaohsiung citizen, who identified himself as an employee of the famous Din Tai Fung restaurant’s branch in the city, said the company required all employees to wear only blue or white masks in March.
The whistleblower said the company’s policy had rendered his more than 100 masks of different colors useless.
Wang Hsiao-hsing (王小星), chief secretary of the city government’s department of health, said that Din Tai Fung is in the food industry and its mask mandate was put in place out of food safety concerns. Nevertheless, Wang said the department did not put any limit on the colors of masks.
Labor Affairs Bureau Chief Lee Huan-hsun (李煥熏), however, said that according to the Labor Standards Act, it’s permissible for employers to enforce a dress code during office hours. Therefore, the limit on mask colors is not against the law, according to Lee.
FLORIDA - When Ms Cathy Tobias began tying a ribbon to a rope for each Covid-19 death in Florida, she had no idea her entire patio would end up being draped in colour.
The eye-catching tribute to those who have died in the Sunshine State during the pandemic crisscrosses her patio, weaves across stairs and onto a balcony at her home on Anna Maria Island, a small community on Florida's Gulf coast.
There are now more than 30,000 ribbons, in all colours of the rainbow - from pale pink to crimson to neon green.
Sitting on a porch with a neighbour who has helped her create the memorial, Ms Tobias said she began to tie the ribbons because she wanted to visualise the death toll.
"Watching the numbers change as fast as we can tie really hits us very deeply and strongly - how many people have died and are dying," the 67-year-old retired occupational therapist said. "It's very sad."
Ms Tobias' home is at the end of the main road on Anna Maria Island, a tourist-friendly town on a narrow strip of land with visitors driving around in rented golf carts and plenty of stores stocked with beach gear.
She says her tribute of course conjures up mixed emotions.
"It is in some ways celebratory because we're celebrating life - of course, lives lost," said Ms Tobias, who now works as a photographer. "Each one of these people have family, loved ones, friends that are all deeply impacted and I didn't want them to get lost in this pandemic."
She said she knows "what it feels like, unfortunately, to lose a loved one," because her first child died at less than a month old.
Tying ribbons might not seem too complicated, but as the pandemic swept the world and Florida along with it, Ms Tobias and her neighbour Lucy Kancy, devised an organisational system to keep track of all the dead.
For every 10 deaths, they tie a white ribbon. After that, for every 500, 1,000 and 10,000 deaths, they acknowledge the grim milestone using markers.
"It takes forever - it's a labour of love," said Ms Kancy, 69.
"To cut these the right size, it takes hours. And then, before you know it, it's time to do it again."
Last month, Ms Tobias displayed the fluttering streamers for the first time on one of the island's public beaches, with the help of her sister and several friends.
Arranged in one long line, the ribbons spread out more than 230m.
Ms Tobias brought markers so visitors could write the names of their dead loved ones on the ribbons, hoping those left behind could get a bit of catharsis, particularly those who could not attend a funeral to say goodbye.
"A lot of these people, we know, died alone and families weren't given the opportunity to grieve properly or even have proper funerals," Ms Tobias said.
All are welcome to participate, even if their loved one did not die of Covid in Florida. So far, about 40 names have been inscribed.
Ms Tobias now wonders what to do with her creation, which is back at her home.
In the short term, it will be exhibited this month at an arts centre in nearby St. Petersburg.
She also dreams of seeing a Covid ribbon memorial for every US state, to pay tribute to the more than 500,000 people who have died in the country, which is the hardest-hit in the world.
For now, Ms Tobias is focused on Florida's losses.
"I just keep going. I'm just trying to keep up," she says.
LOS ANGELES - Nine great apes at the San Diego Zoo - four orangutans and five bonobos - made veterinary history in recent weeks as the world's first non-human primates known to be vaccinated against Covid-19, zoo officials said on Thursday (March 4).
One of the recipients was a 28-year-old female Sumatran orangutan named Karen who had garnered headlines at the zoo when she became the first ape to undergo open-heart surgery in 1994.
Each of the nine animals received two doses of an experimental vaccine originally designed for dogs and cats, with the apes exhibiting no adverse reactions, and are all doing well, zoo spokeswoman Darla Davis said in an email to reporters.
Zoo officials went ahead with the shots over concerns about the animals' wellbeing after a troop of eight gorillas at the affiliated San Diego Zoo Safari Park fell ill with Covid-19 in January, marking the first known transmission of the virus to great apes.
The eight gorillas, including a 48-year-old male "silverback" named Winston who suffered from pneumonia and heart disease, have since improved and appear to be on their way to a full recovery, Ms Davis said.
Winston was treated with a variety of medications, including a coronavirus antibody therapy for non-humans.
The gorillas were not vaccinated because veterinarians assumed their immune systems had already developed antibodies to the virus. They were thought to have caught the illness from an asymptomatic staff member.
The orangutans and bonobos selected for immunisation were among the great apes at the zoo considered the most at risk of catching the virus and among the easiest to inoculate. Staff vaccinated the animals by distracting them from the needle with treats.
Zoo staff began administering the shots to some of the animals in January and continued through February, with the last few given in March, Ms Davis said.
The vaccine developed by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis was not tested on apes.
But cross-species use of vaccines is not uncommon, and apes at the zoo get human flu and measles vaccines, according to Ms Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife officer for the San Diego Wildlife Alliance, the entity that owns the zoo and safari park.
She said the nine great apes were the first non-human primates known to have received a Covid-19 vaccine of any kind.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) revealed on Thursday (March 4) that the country will soon build a vaccine factory capable of producing as many as 20 million vaccines per month, meeting the needs of the nation and opening the door to exports.
During an interview with Formosa Television (FTV) Thursday evening, Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said he had applied with the National Development Council to build a "second vaccine plant" with a "super-large" production capacity. Chen said monthly output could reach as high as 20 million doses.
Chen stated that at the early stages of Taiwan's inoculation program for COVID-19, the country will rely on imported vaccines. However, the CECC's ultimate objective is to gradually switch to domestically produced ones.
The CECC head said that clinical trials for domestic vaccines are progressing smoothly and that the resulting technical data is promising. He said the trials should end in late June or early July, and production should start in July.
Chen asserted that if COVID-19 becomes a seasonal disease like the flu, vaccines will become "national security materials." Due to the security implications, Taiwan should control its own vaccine supply, he added.
Chen pointed out that clinical trials of foreign vaccines are all being carried out abroad, while the trials for the domestic shots are ongoing in Taiwan. Although Taiwanese "don't differ too much from others physically," test subjects who are Taiwanese will naturally report results that are even closer to the country's general population, said Chen.
For this reason, Chen emphasized that future vaccine development should be carried out in Taiwan. Chen estimates that the new vaccine plant will be able to produce 120 million jabs by the end of the year.
According to Chen, it will take about 30 to 40 days to produce one batch of 20 million doses. He said the production capacity of the new facility will be so great that it should not only meet the needs of Taiwan's 23 million-strong population within a few months but also enable the country to export vaccines soon.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Reports surfaced Wednesday (March 3) alleging that Japanese table tennis star Fukuhara Ai (福原愛) had stayed overnight with a man who was not her Taiwanese husband, elite ping pong athlete Chiang Hung-chieh (江宏傑), but she claims they had stayed in separate rooms.
Japanese magazine Josei Seven on Wednesday posted images of Fukuhara walking into a hotel with an unidentified Japanese man and checking out with him the next day. In response to the report, Fukuhara acknowledged that the two had indeed stayed in the same hotel, but she insisted each had spent the night in their own room.
According to the report, the man has been photographed walking with Fukuhara in public on numerous occasions recently, with one media outlet posting 55 photos of them together on various outings. According to Japanese media reports, the two had met each other through a mutual friend six or seven years ago.
Before the incident in question, which took place in February, the two had dinner in the Yokohama Chinatown. Afterward, Fukuhara was photographed climbing over a railing to dart into the man's car.
At the end of the night, they were seen checking into a hotel. The pair was spotted leaving it together the next day.
The two have been photographed together and interacting with each other on numerous occasions. Japanese media has also photographed the man visiting Fukukara's home, where he stayed the night.
In response to the reports of her spending time with an unidentified man, she told Josei Seven that she has been "very emotionally unstable recently." Amid rumors that she is preparing to divorce Chiang, Fukuhara Fukuhara on Thursday (March 4) released a statement through her company Omusubi in which she apologized for the "worries and troubles" caused by the media reports.
Although Fukuhara has denied having an affair, Tokyo Sports cited Japanese attorney Yokokume Katsuhito as saying that in legal terms, it is black and white. The numerous photos and videos of her with the man and the fact that they spent tonight at the same location can be taken as "favorable evidence."
Yokokume pointed out that because the two are from different countries, the divorce proceedings are complex. The outcome will be different depending on whether it is filed in Japan or Taiwan.
He added that in addition to disputes between the two adults over matters such as assets, the question of custody of their two children will come into play. In Japan, custody is granted to only one parent, while the legal system in Taiwan allows for the possibility of joint custody.
As for compensation, he said that in both Taiwan and Japan, a person can demand compensation if their spouse is found to have been unfaithful. If the third party knowingly engages in a relationship with a married person, the aggrieved spouse can sue them for compensation, according to Yokokume.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A magnitude 4.7 earthquake jolted northeastern Taiwan at 10:24 p.m. this evening (March 4), according to the Central Weather Bureau (CWB).
The epicenter of the temblor was 52.7 kilometers east of Yilan County Hall at a shallow focal depth of 11.2 kilometers, based on CWB data. Taiwan uses an intensity scale of one to seven that gauges the degree to which a quake is felt at a specific location.
The quake’s intensity registered a 3 in Yilan County and a 2 in Hualien County, New Taipei City, and Miaoli County. A lesser intensity of 1 was recorded in Taoyuan City, Hsinchu County, Taichung City, and Nantou County.
No injuries or damage from the quake had been reported at the time of publication.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese man abducted in the Philippines by kidnappers allegedly involved in a Chinese crime ring was rescued by local police on Tuesday (March 2).
The Philippine National Police-Anti Kidnapping Group conducted the rescue operation upon receiving information from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the Philippines. TECO learned on Monday that the victim, surnamed Wu (吳), was being held by Chinese nationals.
According to Wu, who was based in the Southeast Asian country, he had sought employment from a Chinese gambling company via messaging app Telegram on Feb. 26. He landed a job at the company and was offered RMB13,000 (US$2,009) per month.
Wu said he was then taken to a hotel in Pasay on Feb. 26 for quarantine, after which he was relocated to Las Piñas on Feb. 28 and Parañaque on March 1. His freedom of movement was restricted, and he claimed he had been “sold” three times by different businesses at prices ranging from RMB30,000-38,000.
Wu was rescued in an office building in Parañaque, according to the Philippine police. No guards were present.
The case marks the 10th incident in which Taiwanese citizens have been abducted or confined in the Philippines this year, said TECO. Since 2018, TECO has received requests for assistance from 34 Taiwanese nationals held over debt issues and disputes with gambling businesses.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After the completion of self-driving bus tests with passengers along the Shalun route in February, the city of Tainan will start tests along the Southern Taiwan Science Park route every Saturday in March.
Tainan Bureau of Transportation Director Wang Ming-te (王銘德) announced on Wednesday (March 3) that self-driving buses will begin to shuttle between the Nanke train station and the Nanke Archeological Museum every Saturday in March, beginning Saturday (March 6). Members of the public who are interested in taking a ride should register in advance.
A one-way trip on the self-driving bus is about 6.4 kilometers, and a round-trip takes about 60 minutes, bureau staff said, adding the rides are free of charge.
Twelve testing trips of the self-driving bus services will be conducted each day on March 6, 13, 20, and 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a bus leaving every 30 minutes except noon. Participants must report to the staff conducting the test 15 minutes before departure time and a maximum of 15 passengers will be allowed on during each test.
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