TAIPEI - To prevent the MERS virus hitting the nation, tickets for South Korea bought from Taiwan airline companies may be cancelled and fully refunded before June 12, according to officials from the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA).
MERS took another life in South Korea yesterday, and has now been responsible for a total of six deaths in the country so far this year, according to South Korean officials. The fatal disease has been spreading faster than had previously been expected, making the country second to Saudi Arabia in number of confirmed cases.
In response, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has already raised its three-tier safety system for travel to Seoul to Level two, "alert." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has also switched its travel warning light from "gray" to "yellow" in the past week. The CAA followed up prevention drills by collaborating with Taiwan airline companies, launching a full-refund policy for flight cancellations to South Korea.
The four airlines currently agreed upon the full-refund policy are China Airlines, Eva Air, TransAsia Airways and Mandarin Airways. For tickets issued before June 5, full-refund cancellations may be made free-of-charge before June 12, officials said. Moreover, if the disease continues to spread, the date for buyers to request full-refund cancellations may be prolonged, officials added.
The policy is non-retroactive, however, leaving some buyers who have already cancelled tickets to complain that the government is too slow in its response. According to the airlines, around 10 to 20 per cent of passengers have cancelled their tickets since MERS broke out in May.
According to the CAA, Taiwan airline companies have 137 flights to South Korea every week, all of which are open for full-refunds. However, for foreign airlines, including Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, this policy will not be activated until the MOFA changes the travel warning light for South Korea to "red."
The CAA officials said that even with Taiwan airline companies, a full-refund policy is not normally applied when the region is still under a "yellow" or "gray" light, however, with MERS spreading quickly, the government has decided to launch it now as a preventative measure.
Youngest Patient Reported
A high school student was confirmed to have MERS yesterday, according to South Korean officials. He is currently the youngest patient reported. Moreover, the contagious disease has been identified in Busan City, which is located on the opposite coast from Seoul. This expansion has aroused another wave of fear and panic, not only in South Korea, but also in neighbouring countries.
Taiwan May Not Present at Gwangju Universiade
In light of the spreading infection, officials from the Sports Administration said Monday that they are considering whether or not to attend the upcoming Summer Universiade in Gwangju, which is currently scheduled for July 3 to 14. A decision will be made at the end of June at the latest, officials said.