The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday raised the travel notice for 42 countries and one area in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and northern Africa to a level 3 “warning,” and reported eight new imported cases of COVID-19.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), head of the center, said the global COVID-19 pandemic has changed drastically in the past few days, and the eight new cases — raising the nation’s total to 67 — were all people who had just returned to Taiwan.
Case No. 60 traveled on their own to Italy, Greece and Germany; No. 61 visited Austria and the Czech Republic with a tour group; No. 62 visited the Philippines with her family; No. 63 was part of the same tour to Egypt as the 55th case reported on Sunday; and No. 64 studied at the same Spanish school as the 58th case reported on Sunday, he said.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
Cases No. 65 to 67 were on the same 15-person tour to Turkey as the 56th and 57th cases reported on Sunday, he added.
Although the Turkish government has said the nation has very few confirmed cases, that five members of the Taiwanese tour group tested positive after returning home has led the center to suspect that the outbreaks in some places are more serious than their number of reported cases would indicate, he said.
The new level 3 warning covers, in alphabetical order: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Oman, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
Travelers from these countries would be put under 14-day mandatory home quarantine upon arrival in Taiwan, the center said.
As the pandemic spreads, tightened border controls would be expanded to whole regions, and enhanced border controls on Asian countries would be announced today or tomorrow, Chen said.
He also warned Taiwanese who are still making travel plans.
“We sympathize with the Taiwanese who contracted the virus in other countries, but if people still insist on traveling to certain countries that we have advised them to avoid, we would have to take stricter measures,” he said.
People who travel unnecessarily to countries under a level 3 notice would not be eligible for the government’s home isolation or quarantine subsidy, and if they test positive for the virus, they would have to pay for testing and treatment, and their names would be published, he said.
People who provide false information on Health Declaration and Home Quarantine Notices would also be denied the subsidy and could be fined up to NT$150,000 (US$4,964), Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said.
People who breach home isolation or quarantine regulations, such as breaking contact with authorities, could be fined between NT$100,000 and NT$1 million under the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), and their names would be published, Chuang said.
Foreigners from countries under a level 1 or 2 travel notice who are not enrolled in the National Health Insurance system would have to pay for COVID-19 testing and treatment if they test positive, Chen said.
More details of the policy, such as the definition of unnecessary travel or the authority for publishing offenders’ names, would be announced this week, he said.
“A wave of cases imported from other countries is rapidly rising, totaling 44 so far, so we urge people to refrain from unnecessary overseas travel and to protect their health,” Chen said.
“We held firm to block the first wave of infection, but a new wave is coming, so everyone should cooperate with disease prevention efforts,” he added.
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