A requirement that Taiwanese and residents should provide a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 to enter Taiwan is to end on Thursday next week, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday as it increased the cap for inbound travelers to 40,000 people per week.
“Although the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants [of SARS-CoV-2] are highly contagious, they do not lead to a surge in the rate of severe symptoms,” said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. “As such, restrictions on inbound travelers should be eased.”
The purpose of requiring a negative PCR test was to avoid a domestic outbreak caused by people arriving from overseas, which would increase the burden on healthcare providers, Chen added.
However, the government has waived the requirement for Taiwanese, residents and transit passengers for practical reasons, he said.
“Although there has been a significant increase in the number of outbound travelers, most of them are spending only one to two weeks abroad before returning,” he said. “While they are abroad, it might not be easy to locate medical facilities to undergo a PCR test, and other problems arise if they test positive for COVID-19 and are not allowed to board a return flight to Taiwan.”
Despite the end of the PCR test requirement, all travelers returning from abroad must still take a saliva test upon arrival, Chen said.
Civil Aeronautics Administration Director-General Lin Kuo-hsien (林國顯) said that testing capacity would be bolstered.
“We will increase our capacity to process saliva test samples at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport so that 1, 570 passengers can be tested per hour, which should meet demand during peak arrival hours,” Lin said.
Meanwhile, the weekly cap for arrivals was increased to 40,000 from 25,000.
The number of international arrivals has gradually risen due to the summer break and increased economic activity, Chen said.
“Prior to the enforcement of the policy, we had estimated that COVID-19 cases caused by Omicron subvariants could reach 100,000 to 200,000 per day,” Chen said.
“However, while there was a period in May when more than 90,000 cases were reported per day, the daily count has never exceeded 100,000,” he said. “The development of the domestic COVID-19 outbreak has been consistent with our forecasts.”
Lin said that quarantine hotels can accommodate 41,300 people per week, or 55 percent of inbound travelers.
The rest would quarantine at home based on the “one person per residence” principle, Lin said.
To address cases of people contracting the virus after picking up family members returning from abroad, the main airports in Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung and Kaohsiung have installed electronic scrolling message boards to remind people that they need to observe disease prevention guidelines, he said.
Chen said that excitement might be a factor.
“People might be too excited at seeing family members so they forget that there are risks of contracting the virus by coming in close contact with people returning from pandemic-affected countries,” Chen said, adding that they should observe social distancing guidelines and wear masks.
Asked about quarantine requirements and a possible shift from three days of home quarantine plus four days of self-initiated disease prevention to seven days of self-initiated disease prevention, Chen said that the CECC would “take it one step at a time” over policy changes.
“We understand what people want and would make the best arrangement by closely monitoring the situation,” he said.
‘NO SURRENDER’: A blockade or outlying island seizure would be an act of war, and China’s drills last month have emboldened Taipei in its response plans, an official said The Republic of China Army Command Headquarters has agreed to purchase 5,000 Kestrel close-range anti-armor missiles worth NT$400 million (US$12.63 million) from the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology, according to the military’s latest arms purchase bid notice. The army asked the institute to complete the order within 13 months, a military source said on condition of anonymity. Kestrel missiles are designed to penetrate armored vehicles and are used in anti-surface warfare, as they feature optical sights and night vision, and can be operated in all weather conditions. The missile has a 400m range, or a 150m range when used for breaching brick
IF THE CHIPS ARE DOWN: The US secretary of state warned that a disruption to the supply of Taiwanese semiconductors would play havoc with the global economy If Taiwan were attacked, the global economy would face devastation, as that is where most of the world’s semiconductors are produced, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday. In an interview that aired on the 60 Minutes television program, Blinken was asked whether instability across the Taiwan Strait would be felt around the world. Blinken said that China has been increasingly aggressive against Taiwan, posing a threat to peace and stability in the region, while economically the world would feel the effects of such aggression. Blinken was interviewed for the program after meeting with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi
‘ABSURD’: UN Resolution 2758 expelled the Chiang Kai-Shek government without mentioning Taipei, something the Chinese minister did not acknowledge, Taipei said Taiwan yesterday criticized Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) for “intentionally misinterpreting” a 1971 UN resolution to misrepresent Taiwan’s status to the global community. In his address on Saturday to the UN General Assembly, Wang cited Resolution 2758 as a basis for Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China. He said that Beijing considers Taiwan an “inseparable part of China’s territory since ancient times.” “Only when China is completely reunified can there be enduring peace across the Taiwan Strait... Any move to obstruct China’s reunification is bound to be crushed by the wheels of history,” Wang said. General Assembly Resolution 2758
The UK is determined to work with its allies to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself, British Prime Minister Liz Truss said on Sunday, a pledge that drew expressions of gratitude from Taipei. “What I’ve been clear about is that all of our allies need to make sure Taiwan is able to defend itself, and that is very, very important,” Truss said in a CNN interview, when asked whether the UK was willing to match the US’ pledge last week to defend Taiwan militarily in the event of an attack by China. Truss said her government was working with its G7 allies,