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Quarantine and COVID testing are key to Taiwan’s border reopening

Quarantine and COVID testing are key to Taiwan’s border reopening
Canada
On Sept. 16, Taiwan added the Marshall Islands to its esteemed low-risk COVID-19 country list for reporting zero new cases and meeting its required per-capita testing threshold.

However, on the very same day, it removed Myanmar from the list, meaning business travellers from the Southeast Asian country would no longer enjoy any relief from the 14-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

Just a week before that, Taiwan also welcomed Vietnam and Hong Kong to the privileged low-risk travel club as a reward for their declining coronavirus infection rates.

Constantly tightening and relaxing the leash of a quarantine according to changing risk factors — and testing — are key in pandemic travel restrictions for Taiwan in its effort to strike a balance between economic interests and the need to protect its border from the threats of a global pandemic.

As of Monday, Taiwan recorded a total of just 509 confirmed cases — with seven deaths.

“Quarantine of arrivals is a major strategy for handling cross-border transmission,” said Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s Health and Welfare Minister and head of its Central Epidemic Command Center. “Strict border-control measures will remain in place for the foreseeable future.”

Since March 19, all inbound travellers to the island — citizens or not — must undergo a two-week mandatory quarantine.

Visitors can only board an inbound flight if they can provide negative COVID test results from within three days before boarding. Taiwanese nationals, temporary residents, migrant workers, international students and diplomats are exempted.

To ease international travel, the Taiwanese government in June established separate country lists based on their risk of spreading COVID to the island. The designations are reviewed and updated regularly.

Business travellers from low- and medium-risk countries can apply for shortened quarantine periods if they have no history of travel to other places in the 14 days prior to coming to Taiwan.

However, they must stay in designated quarantine hotels at their own expense and test negative after at least five days before they are cleared.

But even after that, there’s a catch.

“The visitors must be continuously accompanied by assigned staff to ensure effective implementation of all protective measures.”

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Since July 26, those from high-risk countries such as the Philippines are tested for COVID upon arrival and sent to government quarantine sites before they can be cleared. As of Sept. 13, 17 of the 1,023 Filipino travellers — with or without symptoms — tested positive.

The geography of being an island makes it easier and more effective to enforce border quarantines in Taiwan, said Chen. “This is a unique advantage,” he said.
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