The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) could announce today that it would fully reopen borders on Oct. 13, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said yesterday.
Su in the morning inspected Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to check if airport personnel were prepared to cope with an expected rise in passenger volume today, when the weekly cap for international arrivals would increase to 60,000 people.
The requirement for a saliva-based polymerase chain reaction test upon landing is also to be waived.
The CECC last week announced that a zero-quarantine policy for international arrivals could be implemented from Oct. 13, depending on the local outbreak situation.
“If the development of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past week has indeed proceeded as predicted by the CECC, the Executive Yuan will hear a briefing from the center during a Cabinet meeting tomorrow [today],” Su said.
“It is possible that borders could be reopened on Oct. 13 as planned, if all of the ministries reach a consensus on the matter,” he told reporters.
With borders gradually reopening, an increasing number of international tourists and overseas Taiwanese are traveling to Taiwan, Su said.
Airport personnel would face new challenges, such as rearranging the flow of international arrivals inside terminals and changes in staff deployment, he said.
Taiwan enters a new phase in terms of disease prevention today, Su said.
“We want to ask all disease prevention personnel and airport staff working on the front line to perform every procedure correctly so that we can be best prepared for reopening,” he said.
Separately, the CECC said seasonal influenza is expected to cause more infections than it did over the past two years, urging people at risk of flu complications to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
The government-funded flu vaccination program would be launched in two phases, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices convenor and National Taiwan University Hospital pediatrician Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) said.
Eligible recipients for the first phase, which would start on Saturday, include healthcare workers and disease prevention personnel, people aged 65 or older, residents and workers of long-term care facilities, children aged from six months to elementary-school age, pregnant women, and people aged 19 years or older who have underlying health conditions, including high-risk chronic diseases.
Eligibility also includes parents of infants under six months old, preschool and nursery workers, students from elementary to high-school level, including grades one to three at five-year junior colleges, and livestock workers and animal disease prevention personnel.
Lee said people aged 50 to 64 would be eligible in the second phase, whose launch date would be announced later.
“The COVID-19 outbreak is expected to continue this winter, while seasonal flu is expected to cause more infections than the previous two years, as COVID-19 restrictions and border control measures are being lifted,” he said.
However, the flu virus strains identified in other countries have not shown significant mutations, so it is expected to be endemic and not cause an extraordinary outbreak.
“People can get the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, as there is no clear evidence that the two cause cross interactions,” Lee said.
“We recommend getting the two on different arms,” he said.
While some believe the flu vaccine can offer protection against COVID-19, there is not enough evidence to prove it, so people at high risk of flu complications should get both vaccines, he added.
People who have recovered from COVID-19 and been released from isolation can also receive the flu vaccine, he said.
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