Starting from tomorrow, all non-resident foreign nationals are temporarily banned from entering Taiwan for a month, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday, as it confirmed Taiwan’s first case of the new COVID-19 variant from the UK.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that border control and quarantine measures would be tightened to prevent the new, more contagious coronavirus variant, which was first reported in the UK and has since spread to other continents.
“Starting from Jan. 1, all foreign nationals, except those holding an Alien Resident Certificate or under special conditions, will be temporarily banned from entry,” he said, adding that the ban would cover travelers with a flight scheduled after midnight.
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Exemptions to the entry ban also include foreigners who are Alien Permanent Residence Certificate holders, diplomatic and service passport holders, business personnel who are fulfilling contractual obligations, humanitarian visa holders, the spouses or minor children of Taiwanese, and people who have special government approval.
“As for Taiwanese who are returning from other countries, starting from Jan. 15, aside from the current requirement of providing a negative polymerase chain reaction [PCR] test result [obtained within three days of] boarding, they are to be placed under strengthened quarantine regulations,” Chen said.
He said that the majority of returning travelers should stay in a quarantine hotel or centralized quarantine facility.
If people wish to be quarantined at home, there can only be “one person in one housing unit,” Chen said.
However, “individuals can stay in the same housing unit with people who came back with them, but there cannot be other people, who have been in Taiwan and are not under home quarantine, staying with them in the same unit,” he added.
“We hope to build a stronger defensive line between returning individuals and the local community,” he added.
Chen said that international flights would also be banned from making transits in Taiwan’s airports starting tomorrow.
The policy changes were made after the CECC confirmed that case No. 792 — a Taiwanese teenager who returned from the UK and tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday — had the new variant of the coronavirus, which is believed to be 70 percent more contagious.
Chen said that while capacity at quarantine hotels and centralized quarantine facilities is limited, the center must consider how to protect people, so the new policy would reduce the number of arriving foreign travelers, but still allow Taiwanese to return home.
Chen said that two imported cases of COVID-19 were confirmed yesterday: two female migrant workers from the Philippines who are in their 20s and arrived in Taiwan on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16, and both provided a negative PCR test result.
They tested positive for COVID-19 in tests taken on Monday and Tuesday, before ending centralized quarantine, he said.
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