TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After publicly excoriating the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC's) handling of a cluster of infections in a Taoyuan hospital, a former Kuomintang (KMT) minister of health was photographed pulling his mask below his chin to talk on his phone on the Taipei MRT Wednesday morning (Jan. 20).
Over the past week, a cluster of infections that began at the Taoyuan General Hospital on Jan. 12 had spread to nine people by Tuesday (Jan. 19). During a talk show interview last week, former Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良), who served under former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) from 2009-2011, called for the infected physicians to be fired for failing to follow standard operating procedures (SOP) during a patient's intubation.
On Sunday (Jan. 17), Yaung, called on the CECC to "review its double standards, be alert to the improvement of hospital management, and make medical staff more vigilant." He then bluntly declared, "If it continues this way, Taiwan's epidemic prevention will fail."
However, on Wednesday morning (Jan. 20), a netizen in the Facebook group Water Mirror 8 (水鏡政經學院) posted a photo allegedly taken that day showing Yaung riding on the Taipei MRT with his mask pulled down below his chin as he spoke on the phone, a clear violation of the epidemic prevention regulations. The photo quickly went viral on social media, with netizens condemning the former health minister's behavior:
"It is a pity that he has stepped down, otherwise he would have been fired!"
"He doesn't even understand the SOP for riding the MRT."
"If I was the train conductor, I would fire this 'unscrupulous' passenger."
"This kind of joker can serve as the health minister, Taiwan's sorrow, and his concept of epidemic prevention is extremely poor."
Some netizens speculated that based on his light clothing and an advertisement for an event that was slated for the second half of 2020, that the photo was taken last fall. However, as early as April 15 last year, the CECC began advising MRT passengers to wear face masks, and by Aug. 13, it had made masks on the Taipei Metro mandatory, with violators subject to a fine of between NT$3,000-15,000.
EBC News claimed it had contacted Yaung and that he had allegedly admitted to taking the MRT that morning. He claimed that while he was talking on the phone, the person on the other end could not hear him clearly, so he "may have pulled it down a bit."
Nevertheless, he claimed that the mask was "absolutely still there" and that he had covered his mouth with his hand as he spoke. Judging by the photo, the mask was worn improperly, and he was not covering his mouth.
Water Mirror 8 Facebook photo