Taiwan’s Transport Ministry fined the EVA Airways Corp 1 million Taiwan dollars ($35,000) Thursday after blaming one of its pilots for spreading the Chinese coronavirus.
According to the ministry, the pilot did not follow the necessary disease prevention protocols, allowing him to spread the infection. These included failing to wear a mask in the cockpit and failing to report all his contacts and the places he had visited.
EVA has since fired the pilot, who is experiencing symptoms and is currently being treated at a hospital. Two of his colleagues have tested positive since coming into contact with him.
Before this week, the country has not recorded a single new case of the coronavirus since April 12 thanks to the implementation of early and effective measures to stop its spread. Taiwan notified the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) of information regarding the spread of an infectious disease in China in December 2019, but the W.H.O. ignored the warning, as Taiwan is not allowed to join the U.N. body.
The case has ignited public anger among the Taiwanese, whose lives have effectively returned to normal since May. As of Thursday, the country has recorded 776 cases and seven deaths, an astonishingly low figure given its population of nearly 24 million people.
In a statement responding to the “uproar” caused by the case, the Transport Ministry cited its top official Lin Chia-lung as saying the airline was also to blame as it failed to adhere to anti-pandemic measures. The fine of $35,000 is the highest possible penalty they can hand out. Moving forward, the ministry will issue new rules for airlines, which have already agreed to further tighten their anti-pandemic measures following the incident.
In their own statement, EVA refused to name the pilot but admitted that “the behaviour of an individual employee has undermined everyone’s efforts at epidemic prevention” and had brought “serious damage to the company’s reputation and image”.