31 Kaohsiung cab drivers who carried Westerdam passengers face Wuhan virus risk

Dozens of Kaohsiung cab drivers who carried Westerdam passengers to be investigated for Wuhan coronavirus exposure

MS Westerdam.

MS Westerdam. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After news broke that an American passenger on the cruise ship MS Westerdam had contracted the Wuhan coronavirus, the Kaohsiung Department of Health on Sunday (Feb. 16) asked taxi cab drivers who carried passengers from the ship to step forward.

On Friday (Feb. 14), an 83-year-old U.S. woman who disembarked from the Westerdam in Cambodia and traveled on to Malaysia tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As the cruise liner carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members docked in Kaohsiung Harbor on Feb. 4, the Kaohsiung Department of Health on Sunday asked taxi drivers who served passengers during their excursions that day to come forward and complete a disease investigation survey.

Cheng Yung-hsiang (鄭永祥), director of Kaohsiung's Transportation Bureau, told CNA that at least 31 taxis had served passengers from the ship that day. He said that he would coordinate with the authorities from the Port of Kaohsiung to gather more information based on surveillance footage.

Pan Chao-ying (潘炤穎), a specialist with the city's Department of Health, told the news agency that when the ship arrived in Kaohsiung on Feb. 4, the Centers for Disease Control had dispatched epidemic prevention personnel to screen passengers before allowing them to disembark. As for the taxi drivers who transported those passengers, Pan said the city government is tracking them down with the help of the Transportation Bureau.

Pan called on taxi drivers who had carried Westerdam passengers on Feb. 4 to contact the Department of Health or the Transportation Bureau as soon as possible to take the disease investigation survey and place themselves under home quarantine.

As for the scenic spots the passengers visited in Kaohsiung that day, Pan said the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) will further investigate the exact locations they visited and carry out appropriate disinfection measures. For those persons who are found to have come in direct contact with these passengers, home quarantine or isolation measures is advised.

The risk of infection for taxi drivers has suddenly become a source of concern after a cab driver living in central Taiwan succumbed to COVID-19 on Sunday. The 61-year-old man had many passengers who traveled to and from China, Hong Kong, and Macau regularly.