The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) might shorten the quarantine period for inbound travelers to seven days after observing the COVID-19 situation for about a month, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday.
Chen, speaking at the Taipei Hotel Association’s annual banquet, said that while people in the tourism industry have suggested a “3-5-7” plan — reopening the border to business travelers this month, reopening to foreign tourists in May and allowing Taiwanese to travel abroad in July — the virus situation is uncontrollable, so the dates are difficult to set in advance.
However, the minister said there is a “7-5-3” quarantine plan that includes “priority travel bubbles” that is being mapped out.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
The plan is to gradually reduce the mandatory quarantine period for inbound travelers from 10 days to seven days, then five days, then three days, before a full reopening without quarantine, said Chen, who heads the center.
The impact of reducing the quarantine period from 14 to 10 days, which took effect on Monday last week, would be monitored for a month and if the COVID-19 situation remains stable, the quarantine period could be further reduced to seven days, Chen said.
The risk of undetected COVID-19 cases among travelers quarantined for 10 days is about 1 percent, but the risk increases to 3.5 percent if they quarantine for seven days, he said, adding that preparations must therefore be made in advance.
The preparations would include teaching businesses in the tourism industry how to quickly handle the situation if an employee or customer tests positive for COVID-19 to stop the virus from spreading.
Reducing the quarantine period to fewer than seven days might be an incentive for more overseas Taiwanese, students and business travelers to visit Taiwan, but it would need to be reduced to fewer than five days to attract foreign tourists, which would be challenging as an expected 20 percent of cases could remain undetected after five days, he said.
Asked if allowing foreign tourists to visit Taiwan could be possible in May, Chen said it is most unlikely that they would be able to arrive and travel freely by May, but the center would also consider “priority travel bubbles” being suggested by the tourism industry, as well as assessing the global COVID-19 situation and local preparations, including vaccination coverage.
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