TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan will hold its annual air raid drill as scheduled on Tuesday afternoon (July 14), but no evacuations or traffic restrictions will be in place this year to avoid the potential transmission of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
This year's drill, the Wan An No. 43 Exercises (萬安43號演習), which simulates an air attack by Chinese military forces, will be held across all of Taiwan from 1:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday. Normally, all pedestrians and vehicles must clear the streets for the 30-minute duration of the event, but no such restrictions will be in place this time.
This year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) has decided not to impose evacuation orders and traffic controls during the drill in order to avoid cluster infections and follow the epidemic prevention guidance of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC). In addition, instead of being held on different days in different locations, it will take place simultaneously throughout Taiwan, including on the outer islands, according to the MND.
The drill will feature a test of the "Airspace Threat Alert System," which is designed to provide an advanced warning of an impending missile attack. During the exercise, the alert system will fire off text messages to the cell phones of the country's residents.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in a Facebook post on Tuesday morning emphasized that people can go about their daily activities but that they should be vigilant if they hear the siren in the future.
This year's exercise will place emphasis on improving the air raid alert's coverage of remote areas, reported CNA.
The first Wan An drill was held in 1978 after Chiang Ching-kuo had been elected president by the National Assembly. Due to increased concerns over Taiwan's safety after it was removed from the UN in 1971, Chiang initiated an air raid preparedness drill for citizens to "prepare for danger in times of peace," dubbing it the "Mega Peace Exercise" (萬安演習).
The drill has continued for 43 years. As tensions with China have ratcheted up in recent months due to aggressive intrusions by Chinese warplanes into Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ), and with 1,000 Chinese missiles pointed at Taiwan, the drills seem more relevant now than ever.
In compliance with the National Defense Act and provisions of the National Defense Mobilization Preparation Act, the Wan An exercises are mainly meant to verify mobile combat capabilities and evacuate the streets to allow for traffic controls and air-raid siren tests to enhance national emergency response capabilities.