Taiwan's health authorities on Friday came under fire for failing to stop a tuberculosis-infected couple from travelling to China by air.
The couple, identified only by their family name, Lee, flew to the southeastern Chinese city of Nanjing from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan on July 21 undetected by local health and immigration officials.
AdvertisementThe husband is infected with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and his wife has an open tuberculosis, sparking a health scare as nearly 400 people were on the two Dragon Air flights with them from Taiwan to China via Hong Kong.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) noticed the oversight three days later while matching the list of travellers recently departing the country with a TB patient database.
"The Lee couple were located by mainland Chinese authorities today in a remote mountain area in northern Jiangsu and our doctors will meet with them to determine treatment," the Department of Health said in a statement.
The department said it will take necessary actions against relatives of the Lees for trying to cover up their whereabouts while Mr. Lee will face a fine of between 10,000 and 150,000 Taiwan dollars (305-4,573 US) for violating regulations related to patients with TB travelling on international flights.
Opposition lawmakers and consumer rights advocates demanded the government take full responsibility for exposing the public to the health danger.
"Obviously the head of the CDC should step down for this grave negligence and we will review the incident in the next legislative session," said Wu Ying-yih, a lawmaker of the opposition Kuomintang.
"Hundreds of passengers are exposed to a potentially deadly tuberculosis because the health department failed to collaborate with the immigration bureau and the airline. We will assist anyone who wishes to seek state compensation," said Cheng Jen-hung, president of the Consumer's Foundation.