S. Taiwan township moves to protect aging population from virus

Wutai Township has high percentage of elderly people, only one health clinic

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Hayou River (Pingtung County Government photo)

Hayou River (Pingtung County Government photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A township in southern Taiwan known for its aboriginal culture and mountainous scenery will begin checking visitors’ temperatures in order to protect its vulnerable population from the Wuhan coronavirus, CNA reported on Monday (March 31).

Wutai is the highest township in Pingtung County with an average elevation of 1,000 meters above sea level. It also has the largest population of Rukai, one of Taiwan's indigenous peoples, on the island.

In addition to Rukai tribal culture, the mountainous scenery, colorful rocks of the Hayou River valley, and cherry blossoms in February and March attract many tourists to the township. The river valley is so popular that the township has placed a 300-person cap on daily visitors to the natural wonder — a cap that is reportedly reached almost every day.

The Hayou River is blessed with the Hayou River Hot Spring, with its colorful cliffs and hot spring trickling from the imposing cliff face. The hot spring is popular in the dry season, which ends in May. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) ravaging the world, many people are heading to the mountains for fresh air, and the river has become one of the rare attractions in Taiwan that have seen visitor numbers swell, Wutai Mayor Tu Cheng-chi (杜正吉) said.

According to the CNA report, elderly people account for a large portion of the township's population, and there is only one health clinic in the township. Residents who fall seriously ill have to be hospitalized in Pingtung City.

The township’s announcement states that visitors who enter Wutai from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the period from April 1-20 must have their temperature checked at Sande Checkpoint (三德檢查所) in Sandimen Township (三地門) and fill out a health statement. Those whose temperature exceeds 37.5 degrees Celsius will be barred from entering.

Temperature checking will apply to Wutai residents as well. This measure will be subject to review and will be adjusted depending on the progress of the pandemic, according to the announcement.

Due to its secluded geological location, there is only one highway leading into the township, Provincial Highway 24, which makes it easier for the measure to be enforced. The mayor said that an entry ban on outside visitors will be in place between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m.