TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As part of its strict new measures to prevent the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus during autumn and winter, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday (Nov. 18) that face masks must be worn in eight types of venues starting next month, including establishments that serve alcohol, such as bars, nightclubs, KTVs, and hostess clubs.
During his weekly press conference Wednesday afternoon, Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced that starting on Dec. 1, masks will be mandatory in eight categories of places, including healthcare facilities, public transportation, places of consumption, places of learning, sports and exhibition venues, entertainment venues, houses of worship, and offices and business venues. Chen said that those who fail to wear masks in these contexts and do not heed requests to do so will face fines of between NT$3,000 (US$105) and NT$15,000 for violating the "Communicable Disease Control Act" (傳染病防治法).
Of the eight categories listed, entertainment venues will present challenges for observance and enforcement of the mask rule. Places listed in this category include crowded, enclosed spaces where alcohol is served such as bars, KTV bars, hostess bars, nightclubs, dance halls, and wine shops.
Chen explained that there is a high risk of infection and transmission in the above places, as it is difficult to maintain social distancing and avoid close contact with others. Therefore, the masks can not only help prevent COVID-19 but also protect against other kinds of diseases transmitted by droplets.
Chen said that if there is a need to eat or drink in the above settings, masks can be temporarily removed on the condition that a proper social distance is maintained or appropriate barrier equipment is in place. He did not elaborate on how the mask rule would be enforced in such settings, other than saying that "If you don't wear masks indoors, you will be punished."
Among the more controversial venues where the mask rule has been put into place are indoor swimming pools. Chen joked that "Of course you can't wear a waterproof mask when swimming."
He said that in the case of indoor swimming pools, people would be expected to wear a mask when not swimming. Likewise, he said that in fitness centers and saunas, "You don't need to wear a mask when using the equipment, but you should wear it after you use it."
Chen said that schools and cram schools are exempt from the new mask requirement because students and teachers in those settings come in contact with the same people each day.
The following are the eight types of venues where masks will be required beginning on Dec. 1:
1. Healthcare facilities
Hospitals, clinics, and other facilities where large numbers of patients are kept in tight quarters indoors
2. Public transportation
Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR), Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA), mass rapid transit (MRT), and other public transportation systems
3. Places of consumption
Malls, shopping centers, supermarkets, and other areas where consumers congregate, with the exception of restaurants
4. Places of learning
Libraries, community colleges, training programs, and study centers, with the exception of K-12 schools and cram schools
5. Sports and exhibition venues
Cinemas, stadiums, gymnasiums, activity centers, performance venues, art galleries, museums, indoor skating rinks, indoor swimming pools, amusement parks, and children’s playgrounds
6. Entertainment venues
Cruise ships, bars, KTV bars, hostess bars, dance halls, MTV clubs, night clubs, massage parlors, fitness centers, fitness and leisure centers (including massage services and saunas), pool halls, bowling allies, and video game arcades
7. Houses of worship
Temples, churches, and funeral homes
8. Offices and Business venues
Banks, insurance companies, credit cooperatives, and post offices
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