Starting yesterday, schools at the senior-high school level and under can apply for foreign students, including Chinese, to enter Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said.
Speaking at the center’s weekly news conference, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said there were no new COVID-19 cases yesterday and the total number of cases in Taiwan remained at 486.
Of the 486, seven people have died, 457 have been released from isolation after treatment and 22 people are hospitalized.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
Chen said as the quarantine situation of foreign students at local universities has been proceeding smoothly, all schools at the senior-high school level and under can now apply to the Ministry of Education to allow foreigners to enter the nation to study in the upcoming semester.
They include students from China, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as current students and freshmen, he said.
The students must be quarantined at designated facilities for 14 days after arriving in Taiwan, and produce a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at the end of the quarantine period before they can attend school, he added.
Mandatory PCR testing is required to avoid the risk of cluster infections on campus and to prevent the students from being discriminated or bullied at school, Chen said.
Deputy Minister of Education Lio Mon-chi (劉孟奇) said there are 2,532 eligible students who can apply to enter Taiwan, of whom 232 are current students and 2,300 are freshmen.
Arrangements would be made to accept 50 to 100 into the nation every day, Lio said.
Separately yesterday, Mainland Affairs Council Minister Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said that President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has given clear instructions regarding the issue, because she cares very much about letting Chinese students and Chinese children of a Taiwanese parent to return before the next semester begins.
The government regards disease prevention as its top priority, but the policy of allowing foreign students to return has been clear, so options have been discussed to allow them to enter in three phases in cooperation with the CECC’s policies, Chen Ming-tong said.
Meanwhile, Chen Shih-chung said that the government of Laos has informed the CECC through the International Health Regulations National Focal Point that a Laotian had tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving from Taiwan.
The man, who is in his 30s, traveled to Taiwan on Feb. 15 and studied in northern Taiwan, he said.
He tested negative for COVID-19 in Taiwan on Monday last week, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he left on Tuesday and made a stopover in South Korea, before arriving in Laos on Wednesday, when he was tested again, which came back positive on Thursday.
The CECC said that the man did not show any symptoms, adding that it has identified eight people who had come into close contact with the man in Taiwan.
Three of them have been placed under home isolation and five have been asked to perform self-health management, the center said, adding that it would continue to look for other possible contacts.
Chen Shih-chung also commented on media reports that a traveler from Taiwan had tested positive in Shanghai and another had tested positive in Vietnam.
However, as the Chinese authorities have not yet confirmed the case in Shanghai, their friends in Taiwan have provided the center with information, he added.
The other traveler is a Vietnamese migrant worker in his 40s, who worked in northern Taiwan, returned to his homeland on Aug. 7 and tested negative at the airport, he said.
However, he stayed at a centralized quarantine center in Vietnam, where he shared a room and had meals with two other Vietnamese who had returned from the US and Japan, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that the two roommates developed symptoms on Wednesday last week, and both tested positive for COVID-19.
The man developed a sore throat, fever and abdominal pain on Saturday and tested positive in a second test on Monday, he said, adding that CECC has initiated contact tracing to identify his close contacts in Taiwan.
In related news, the CECC said that three previous cases were “closed” — a Belgian man who tested positive in Taiwan on July 29 before his planned departure for his native country; a Taiwanese woman who tested positive in Hong Kong on Aug. 8 after arriving there on July 27; and a Japanese man who tested positive on Aug. 1 after returning from Taiwan.
CECC advisory specialist panel convener Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said that PCR and antibody testing conducted on 470 close contacts of the Belgian, 37 contacts of the Taiwanese and 104 contacts of the Japanese all came back negative.
The Belgian reported having experienced suspected COVID-19 symptoms in March before arriving in Taiwan on May 3, and he mainly worked and traveled between Changhua County and Taipei, Chang said.
Pulmonologists suggested that the man’s impaired pulmonary function seemed to have occurred at least three months ago, indicating that he might have been infected before arriving in Taiwan, he added.
Contact tracing and test results did not find any possible sources of infection for the three cases, and they did not transmit the disease in Taiwan, Chang said.
As 14 days have passed since the three tested positive, the panel deems them not having had a negative impact on Taiwan’s disease situation, he added.
Additional reporting by Chung Li-hua
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