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Homeland Security

Taoyuan airport passenger levels fall below SARS numbers: NIA

ROC Central News Agency

03/22/2020 05:20 PM

Taipei, March 22 (CNA) The number of passengers who arrived and departed from Taoyuan International Airport on Saturday fell below the daily average handled by the airport at the height of the SARS outbreak in 2003, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said Sunday.

Only about 7,800 people took flights to or from Taiwan's main international gateway on Saturday, down about 1,700 passengers from the 9,500 who used the airport a day earlier.

That daily traffic was well below the 9,300 passengers handled on average by the airport in May 2003 at the height of the SARS crisis when economic activity in Taiwan and in the region grounded to a halt, according to NIA statistics.

Passenger numbers at the Taoyuan airport have been plummeting since Taiwan and the global community began imposing travel restrictions in January to limit the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Recent restrictions have hit particularly hard.

On March 19, Taiwan began barring most foreign nationals from entering the country, and requiring foreigners who can enter the country and Taiwanese citizens to go into self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

That move, along with the issuance of the highest Level 3 travel alert for the entire world -- essentially telling Taiwanese residents not to travel abroad -- and border controls put in place in other countries have seriously deterred demand for airline travel.

Saturday's passenger traffic at the Taoyuan airport was far below the average daily traffic of 133,300 passengers in January (which was nearly identical to the 133,400 passengers averaged in all of 2019) and an estimated 70,000 passengers per day in February.

Because of plunging demand, airlines have been slashing capacity, and on Sunday, roughly three-quarters of scheduled arrivals and departures at Taoyuan International Airport were canceled, leaving only about 160 flights operating, according to the airport's website.

In 2003, the SARS epidemic infected over 8,000 people and killed more than 770 across the world. Taiwan, with 346 cases and 73 deaths, was one of the countries hit hardest by the disease.


(By Chiu Chun-chin and William Yen)


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