TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A couple was ticketed by Taipei police for removing their masks inside their car to drink water on a hot summer day.
At approximately 4 p.m. on July 8, having just finished shopping while dutifully wearing their masks in the Beitou branch of Costco in Taipei, a man surnamed Chen (陳) and his wife began to drive back home. Thirsty from the sweltering July heat, the couple took off their masks to drink some water.
However, a police officer soon ordered Chen to pull over and roll down his window. Seeing that neither passenger was wearing a mask, the officer informed them they would be fined for violating epidemic prevention rules.
When asked why they were being ticketed, the officer said that they had violated the Level 3 regulation requiring two or more people inside a vehicle to wear a mask. The officer then said that they would be fined NT3,000 (US$100) each for violating the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法).
Officer issuing ticket for failure to wear masks. (Taipei City Police Department image)
Frustrated, Chen took out his phone to shoot a video of the officer issuing the citation. The officer demanded that Chen stop filming as he and his wife questioned the validity of the fine.
After Chen refused to comply with the officer's demand that he cease filming, he alleged the policeman said the fines would be raised to the maximum penalty of NT$15,000. Video of the incident shows Chen and his wife trying to plead with the officer not to impose the fine, but the officer would not be persuaded and admonished them for failing to follow the rules.
The Guandu Police Station in the Taipei City Police Department's Beitou Precinct was cited by SET News as saying Friday (July 16) that police footage of the incident shows that when the patrol car reached the intersection of Zhongyang North Road, Section 4, and Dadu Road, Chen and his wife were seen maskless in their car. The police station confirmed that a citation had been issued for violating the Communicable Disease Control Act but claimed the officer had only informed the couple the fine ranged from NT$3,000-NT$15,000 and that he had not threatened to change the amount.
Guandu Police Station officer explaining the incident. (Taipei City Police Department photo)
Chen told EBC News the couple had worn masks throughout their trip to Costco but had become thirsty after walking inside for a long period of time. "It was a very hot afternoon, and we needed to drink some water. So once we got in the car, we took off our masks and starting drinking water," said Chen.
He acknowledged that they had violated the mask rule, but he was angry about the fine handed down, given the economic hardships that have hit many during Level 3 restrictions: "During the pandemic, everyone is having a hard time making a living. Then the money-grubbing police come along. It's ridiculous."