TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — 228 Taiwanese tourists are trapped in Myanmar's second-largest city, Mandalay, as the government suddenly suspends flights to Taiwan from the city, citing the escalating novel coronavirus outbreak.
Taipei-based Far East International Tourism Group told local media outlets on Tuesday (Feb. 4) that 228 Taiwanese tourists traveling in Myanmar have been told their return flights set for Feb. 8 have been canceled.
There are two air carriers operating flights between Taiwan and Myanmar. Taipei-based China Airlines operates flights between Taipei Taoyuan Intl. Airport and Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, and Myanmar Airways runs flights between Taipei Taoyuan and Mandalay, which just began operations last month. Far East International Tourism Group is responsible for tickets sales on behalf of Myanmar Airways in Taiwan.
Media report that flights to Yangon remain normal, and only flights to Mandalay have been halted without prior notice. No further information about when Mandalay will resume flights to Taiwan was immediately available.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Joanne Ou (歐江安) responded to media queries about the suspension by saying that the Myanmar government did not issue such a ban and that Taiwanese can still fly to Yangon. To those trapped in Mandalay, the ministry will provide needed assistance through its local office.
Amid the coronavirus outbreak and panic, over 60 countries have imposed entry restrictions on Chinese nationals and 46 airline companies are shutting down flights to China. Taiwan has unwittingly been involved in a suspension order from Italy on Friday (Jan. 31) which banned all direct flights to and from the island country. The move is believed to have been made under the influence of the World Health Organization's outbreak reports listing Taiwan as part of China. Taiwan has filed complaints to the Italian government but to no avail at the time of publication.