Foreign nationals can start visiting Taiwan for medical treatment from Saturday next week, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it also loosened travel restrictions on overseas students.
Although Taiwan has recorded a number of imported COVID-19 cases over the past few months, as of yesterday, it had not reported any new local case for 101 days, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a regular news briefing in Taipei.
The total number of confirmed cases remained at 455, with seven fatalities, while only eight people are still hospitalized for treatment, he said.
However, the pandemic’s spread elsewhere remains challenging, he said.
Seeing the rising number of cases in Hong Kong and Australia, the CECC has removed them from its list of medium-risk countries/regions, while keeping South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka on the list, he said.
Japan’s confirmed cases are also rising, but have not exceeded the center’s threshold for medium-risk countries, he added.
The center lists New Zealand, Macau, Palau, Fiji, Brunei, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia, Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar as low-risk countries/regions.
Business visitors can apply to shorten their quarantine period to five or seven days, depending on the ranking of their country, Chen said.
Taiwan is to start receiving foreign visitors for medical purposes from Saturday next week, but this does not include visitors for non-urgent medical purposes, such as cosmetic surgery or physical checkups, as well as COVID-19, Department of Medical Affairs Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said.
Last year, nearly 380,000 foreigners visited Taiwan for treatment, including up to 9,000 who were hospitalized, he said, adding that the majority came for reproductive medicine, treatment for cancer, cardiovascular or orthopedic diseases, and surgery and transplants.
Medical tourists can apply to local hospitals, which would then submit treatment and disease prevention plans to the ministry, he said.
Each patient can apply for two companions — their spouse or a first to third-degree relative — and if necessary, a companion who should be a medical worker or caregiver, he said.
Medical tourists must present documents showing a medical insurance coverage of at least US$30,000 or a similar financial statement, as well as a report showing they tested negative for COVID-19 three days before their flight, he added.
They should sign a document showing their willingness to comply with Taiwan’s disease prevention requirements, he said.
They have to undergo a 14-day quarantine and virus tests after arriving in Taiwan, but if they have an emergency during this period, they could receive treatment under certain conditions, he said.
The center also relaxed travel restrictions on foreign students.
Effectively immediately, students from all countries, including China, who are graduating this semester can apply to enter Taiwan, Deputy Minister of Education Lio Mon-chi (劉孟奇) said.
Last month, the center allowed the entry of foreign students from 19 countries/regions.
Although 17,000 students are eligible under this policy, the Ministry of Education had only approved 959 students so far, with 504 having entered Taiwan, he said.
Limited flight options and quarantine requirements have restricted the number of students entering Taiwan, he said.
An additional 3,533 students, including 3,041 from China, would qualify under the new policy, he added.
The government would monitor the consequences of the opening to decide whether to allow more students to return, he said.
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