Coronavirus: Taiwan approves plan for cautious reopening in stages after pandemic restrictions
- Cabinet gives October 13 as earliest reopening as island plans gradual scrapping of quarantine and PCR requirements and return to visa-waiver programme
- Second stage, which is dependent on case numbers in stage 1, will allow local travel agencies to resume inbound and outbound tours
As part of the reopening plan, the island will scrap quarantine requirements for arrivals, cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told a news conference on Thursday.
During a cabinet meeting on Thursday Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang approved the island lifting its border controls in two stages, with October 13 the earliest date for the reopening, according to Lo.
Under the plan, Taiwan will start the first stage – including raising the weekly cap on visitors from the current 50,000 to 60,000 and cancelling saliva PCR tests at the airport – on September 29.
Lo said the date of the second stage – to remove the mandatory three-day quarantine and allow anyone to visit the island – would be announced two weeks after a review of the first-stage reopening.
“We will announce the 0+7 quarantine measure in about two weeks, which will be around October 13 at the earliest … by mid-October we will proceed to the second stage of border reopening,” he quoted Su as saying.
Taiwan now imposes a three-day mandatory quarantine at home or in a hotel plus a seven-day self-health monitoring period for everyone entering the island. Under the second-stage reopening, quarantine will no longer be required but people entering Taiwan will still be required to monitor their health for seven days, according to the plan.
During the first and second stages of reopening, instead of having saliva PCR tests at the airport, inbound passengers will receive four rapid antigen test kits to self-test at home or in their hotel.
The plan allows Taiwan to resume its visa-waiver programmes for 66 countries during stage 1 and allow anyone to visit the island for general purposes, including from countries with no visa-waiver programmes with Taipei, in the second stage.
It is not yet clear how the second stage of reopening will apply to visitors from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China.
According to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, which charts cross-strait policy, in the first stage those visitors can only apply to visit for family, funeral, study, business and professional assistance purposes, which was formerly done on a case-by-case basis with special permission.
“For them to come for tourism purposes, we still need to review the situation and hold discussions before deciding what to do in the second stage,” a council official said, adding that decisions by Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland to open their own borders for tourists would also be considered in their review.
Wang Pi-sheng, head of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre, said those who tested positive to Covid-19 would be required to follow the island’s current quarantine practice.
“The planned reopening is made possible by the gradual reduction of new infections in Taiwan,” Wang said, adding that a high vaccination rate and ample supplies of test kits and anti-Covid medicines also contributed to authorities’ decision to reopen.
But he also warned the island might postpone the second stage of the reopening plan if the number of new cases rose sharply after stage 1 was introduced on September 29.
Taiwan recorded 42,470 new cases on Thursday, down from 46,902 the day before.