The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced supplementary measures to its autumn-winter COVID-19 prevention program, including special conditions under which travelers can visit Taiwan without presenting a negative COVID-19 test result, and measures for overseas Taiwanese infected with the virus to return home for treatment.
The center on Wednesday last week announced the program, which is to be implemented from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28, to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Taiwan as the number of confirmed cases continues to grow rapidly around the world.
The program includes tighter border control measures, mandatory mask-wearing rules and expanded testing criteria.
However, a requirement that all travelers, including Taiwanese, present a negative result from a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken within three days of boarding a flight for Taiwan has sparked public concern.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, yesterday said that people who fall under three special conditions can be exempted from the requirement.
The first condition involves “family emergencies and medical emergencies,” which include attending a funeral or visiting a critically ill family member — limited to first or second-degree relatives — or special cases that need emergency medical treatment, the center said.
The second condition concerns travelers from “a country where a paid-out-of-pocket PCR test is unavailable,” such as in the Pacific island countries of Tuvalu, Niue, Fiji and Tonga, the CECC said.
Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥), who is the CECC deputy head, said that a survey by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggests that paid-out-of-pocket PCR tests are unavailable in only about 10 percent of the countries around the world, and they are available in nearly all countries with direct flights to Taiwan.
Regarding families traveling from countries where PCR testing is unavailable for children, the CECC would allow the children to return home without providing a negative test result, but the parents must still provide negative results, he said.
The third condition involves “special cases approved by the CECC,” such as necessary short-term governmental or business trips, the center said.
Chen Shih-chung said the special conditions are limited to Republic of China citizens, foreign nationals who hold an Alien Resident Certificate, and people from China, Hong Kong and Macau who hold a residency permit.
Travelers transiting in Taiwan are not included, he said.
People who meet any of the conditions would be allowed to board a plane to Taiwan without providing a negative test result, but they would be seated in a designated section on the plane and asked to take a paid-out-of-pocket PCR test at the airport upon arrival, Chen Tsung-yen said.
Chen Shih-chung said that people who do not provide a negative PCR test result and return to Taiwan on their own would be asked to take a paid-out-of-pocket PCR test at the airport upon arrival, but they would not be eligible for a quarantine subsidy.
They would also face a fine of NT$10,000 to NT$150,000 for contravening the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), he said, adding that they might also face criminal charges if they test positive for COVID-19 and are at risk of infecting others.
Chen Shih-chung also said that although the center on June 17 announced two requirements for overseas Taiwanese infected with COVID-19 to return home, people who do not meet those criteria, but face a difficult medical situation can apply to return to Taiwan on a medical charter flight.
They should entrust international air ambulance services, airlines, or healthcare facilities in Taiwan to apply to the CECC for special approval, and only return on a chartered flight with proper protective measures, he added.
The two requirements are: “The onset of symptoms and the flight boarding date must be at least two months apart, and the symptoms must have been relieved,” and the patients “must test negative in two PCR tests conducted at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms.”
Chen Shih-chung said if overseas Taiwanese face difficult situations that obstruct them from obtaining a negative PCR test result or from returning home, they can notify the CECC so that it can offer assistance.
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