To reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, all affiliated orchestras and troupes of the Ministry of Culture will postpone their upcoming oversea performances. The Ministry is also urging art event organizers that have planned to invite performance groups from high-risk areas to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to determine whether the proposed events should proceed.
In addition, art organizers are advised to assess the public health risks associated with performances by artists from low-risk locations and obtain each performer’s recent travel history and health records. March 19 update: Foreign nationals are now barred from entering Taiwan without residency or diplomatic status, and all incoming passengers are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
The ever-more stringent efforts to curb the spread of the virus came after an Australian national who was diagnosed with COVID-19 after performing with members of the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) at the National Concert Hall in Taipei on Feb. 28 and March 1. Prior to the performances, the musician attended a news conference in Taipei on Feb. 26.
Upon receiving the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) notification of the confirmed case on March 5, Ju Tzong-ching (朱宗慶), chairperson of the National Performing Arts Center (國家表演藝術中心), was immediately appointed to lead the epidemic response, which included the cancellation of all of NSO's upcoming performances and the shutdown of the National Theater Concert Hall and its affiliated spaces for disinfection. The dates for re-opening of the venue will be announced by the center.
All NSO crew members will self-monitor for possible symptoms and those who had direct contact with the Australian national have been quarantined at home per CECC directives.
Following the guidelines released by the CECC addressing mass gatherings in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak, all major government bodies will issue tailored prevention instructions for their respective industries. The Ministry’s guidelines on infection control are outlined below:
(1) Organizers of arts and cultural activities shall perform a risk assessment in advance of prearranged events to ensure the six risk assessment indicators laid out by the CECC are met. The indicators include: whether information pertaining to the attendees' possible previous exposure can be obtained in advance, if the event is held in an open and well-ventilated space, whether the attendees will be close to one another or confined to same the place, the duration of the event, whether hand hygiene can be maintained, and the proportion of attendees wearing surgical masks.
(2) If the prearranged events are to proceed as usual, event organizers shall formulate an epidemic prevention plan in accordance with the guidelines. When necessary, organizers are required to formulate an epidemic prevention plan in partnership with local public health authorities and ask for assistance. A liaison from the Ministry will be available to assist local authorities in coordinating an effective response.
During the Lunar New Year holidays, the Ministry and its affiliated venues began adopting epidemic prevention measures, including monitoring the temperatures of event attendees and staff and providing hand sanitizers. First-line employees are also required to put on masks, and the air ventilation systems of each venue have been switched to a mode with higher efficiency in ventilation and air change. In accordance with the CECC's latest guidelines, the Ministry will also step up its epidemic prevention measures:
(1) Ample hand-washing facilities should be easily accessible at the entrance, while any individual with a temperature above 37.5° Celsius will be asked to leave and be fully refunded. Front-line employees and any personnel with high occupational exposure from serving the general public, as well as all attendees, are required to wear a mask throughout all events.
(2) Spacing attendees apart is recommended by leaving vacant seats in between to help prevent unnecessary contact.
(3) The flow of people in and out the venue should be carefully planned and controlled.
(4) All of the Ministry's affiliated venues will be cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis as well as prior to and after an event. March 19 Update: All of the National Performing Arts Center's venues are disinfecting on an hourly basis for areas such as elevator panels, water machines, floorings, railings, handles, tables, and chairs.
(1) Ample hand-washing facilities should be readily available at the entrance, while any individual with a temperature above 37.5° Celsius will be asked to leave and be fully refunded.
(2) The density of attendees within a confined area should be ascertained, and the flow of people in and out the venue should be carefully planned out. Attendees should maintain a distance of at least one meter from one another.
(3) All the Ministry's affiliated venues will be cleaned and disinfected on a daily basis as well as prior to and after each event.
Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun said the Ministry's twin goals are epidemic prevention and economic stimulus. A NT$1.5-billion package has been proposed for helping the cultural and arts sectors deal with the impact of COVID-19, with NT$1.1 billion earmarked for short-term relief and NT$400 million for revitalization efforts.
Read the original press release here.