A “new disease prevention lifestyle” is mainly being promoted as part of preparations for the loosening of border controls, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday, as the nation marked the 45th day of no local COVID-19 infections.
A total of 419 patients have been released from isolation after treatment, said Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).
A group of 96 Taiwanese who had been stranded in Russia due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday returned to Taiwan, nine of whom reported suspected symptoms after arrival: two with diarrhea and seven with respiratory symptoms, including one who also developed an abnormal sense of smell, he said at the CECC’s daily news conference in Taipei.
Photo: Wang Shu-hsiu, Taipei Times
The results of the first round of testing on the nine people yesterday returned negative, Chen said, adding that the other 87 people would also be tested.
The entire group has been placed in centralized quarantine centers for mandatory 14-day quarantine, he said.
As the CECC on Tuesday announced that a ban on the sale and export of masks would be lifted on Monday next week and that nationwide disease prevention regulations would be loosened on June 7, Chen yesterday reiterated the importance of everyone thoroughly practicing the “new disease prevention lifestyle.”
Many people are anticipating the resumption of international tourism, but even though Taiwan is safe, it does not mean that it is ready to open up its borders to foreign visitors, because “very few places in the world are as safe as Taiwan,” he said.
“Some people have asked if they would be allowed to travel abroad, but the answer depends on the [disease] situation in the destination country, because we do not want Taiwanese to travel abroad and bring the novel coronavirus back,” Chen said.
“However, we cannot always remain isolated from the world, so we are promoting the ‘new disease prevention lifestyle’ not to maintain a safe domestic situation, but rather in preparation for the loosening of border controls,” he said.
The most important factor when considering whether to loosen border controls is the nation’s preparedness against COVID-19, which depends on how well people practice the new lifestyle, he added.
Minister of Economic Affairs Shen Jong-chin (沈榮津) told the news conference that a national team for domestic mask production has finished its “periodic task.”
Daily mask production capacity has increased from about 1.88 million when the government first began requisitioning masks in January to more than 20 million, Shen said, adding that as the disease is well under control in Taiwan, demand for masks has been falling.
From Monday, the government is to requisition 8 million masks per day and allow manufacturers to sell their surplus, while a limit on sending masks to first or second-degree relatives living abroad of 30 masks per two months would also be lifted, Shen said.
While people can buy masks with their National Health Insurance card, it is likely that their price on the domestic market would fall to less than the government-run program’s NT$5, giving consumers flexibility when buying masks, he said.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and related agencies are to conduct random inspections of mask manufacturers to ensure the quality of “Made in Taiwan” masks before they are exported abroad, he added.
Separately yesterday, Chen was asked in a radio interview about Chinese officials saying that he “excels at concealing the [COVID-19] situation in Taiwan.”
Chen said that might be because of his remark that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus were “patting each other on the back” at the World Health Assembly.
Chen made the remark at a CECC news conference earlier this month after Taiwan was not invited to attend the online assembly and Tedros invited Xi to make its opening speech.
It is only natural that Chinese officials were provoked by the remark, as Xi and Tedros are under immense scrutiny, Chen said, adding that if Beijing is concerned that he will run for president, its worries are unwarranted.
Additional reporting by Wu Liang-yi
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