Now Taiwan has a COVID-19 death
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - February 18, 2020 - 12:00am

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat said the inter-agency task force on COVID-19 recommended lifting the travel ban on Taiwan after a meeting at Malacañang. That ban was lifted a couple of days ago. Then came this news direct from Taipei, Taiwan, that a patient in Taiwan has died from COVID-19, marking the first such death on the island since the epidemic spread from Mainland China. It was reported by Health Minister Chen Shih-chung during a news conference on Sunday that the deceased was a man in his sixties who had not travelled abroad recently and had diabetes and Hepatitis B. This was the first fatality in Taiwan, which has 20 confirmed cases.

So can we now say that the lifting of our travel ban on Taiwan was premature? We already knew that outside of mainland China, there have been about 500 cases in more than 25 countries and territories, with five deaths reported in Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and France. Meanwhile, the number of new cases in China dropped for a third consecutive day on Sunday, as the World Health Organization (WHO) warned it was "impossible" to predict how the outbreak would develop.

We also read in the news that the death toll jumped to 1,665 in mainland China on Sunday after 142 more people died from the virus. More than 68,000 people have now been infected, but the number of new cases of the COVID-19 strain allegedly continues to decline. Honestly, we really don’t know whether the virus is really declining or worsening.

So back to the lifting of the Taiwan travel ban, at this point travel may now be made by any national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice-versa. However, with this latest news report, I would like to hear what the Department of Health (DOH) might say about the lifting of this ban. So do we bring back the Travel ban to Taiwan or not? I would like to believe that this is no longer a decision that the Tourism Department has to make, but for DOH would make. So we’ll wait for what the DOH has to say on this.

Meanwhile, we just learned that despite the lifting of this ban to Taiwan, many airlines have cancelled their flights to Taiwan. In fact, I also learned that another business group cancelled their Taiwan trip and moved the entire convention to Manila. Meanwhile, Mr. Lito Banayo, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei, the de facto Philippines Embassy in Taiwan, thanked the inter-agency task force for lifting the ban, which he said was welcomed by the 160,000 Filipino workers there.

The short-lived travel ban imposed on Taiwan should serve as a lesson to the government not to make hasty, ill-advised decisions. The ban was lifted after the inter-agency task force was convinced Taipei was strictly screening travelers to ensure none was a virus carrier. We also learned that the travel ban was a political decision rather than a health-related measure, as there were fewer confirmed COVID-19 cases in Taiwan than in several major countries in the region like Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Now, whether that travel ban will be returned depends entirely on the DOH…and of course the airlines serving Taiwan.

* * *

We learned that Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 138 issued a warrant of arrest against former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV for the government’s conspiracy to commit sedition case where Peter Joemel Advincula and nine others were accused of plotting to destabilize the government. Bail has been set at P10,000. The others arrested, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva and Fr. Albert Alejo, already posted bail and the warrants against them have been recalled.

Under the Revised Penal Code, the crime of "conspiracy to commit sedition" is punishable by imprisonment of from two years, four months and a day, to four years and two months, and a fine of up to P2,000. Meanwhile Advincula a.k.a. “Bikoy” will post bail next week. His lawyer, Larry Gadon, told reporters that the latter has yet to receive the warrant, but he will voluntary surrender and post bail either Monday or Tuesday. Advincula, a convicted swindler, claimed to be “Bikoy,” the hooded figure in the “Ang Totoong Narcolist” videos.

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