Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Taiwan announces new inward travel curbs to halt imported infections

Worsening infection rate in Guangdong province has neighbours looking over their shoulders.

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After recent rises in imported Covid-19 cases, Taiwan, widely praised for its efforts to control the coronavirus, will from the start of December require almost all visitors to have negative tests before arriving.

The Taipei government also announced it will increase the number of places where people must wear masks.

Taiwan has not reported any domestic transmissions of the virus for more than 200 days and has the pandemic under control thanks to early and effective prevention which has earned the island nation praise from other countries.

However, the government has watched nervously as imported cases have increased although at a far lower rate than most other places. Last Friday, eight new cases were reported, all of them imported, the most in a single day since April.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung announced that between Dec 1 and Feb 28 next year, everyone entering Taiwan will be required to have a negative Covid-19 test, taken within three days of setting out to travel, though exceptions will be made for international mariners and in individual humanitarian cases.

The planned enforcement period may be extended, he told reporters.

Previously during the pandemic, Taiwanese citizens and Taiwan residence permit holders did not need to present negative coronavirus tests before being allowed in, though most other travellers did.

Masks are already widely worn in Taiwan, but from December the government will also require people to wear them in more places, including temples, art galleries and bars, Chen said. Fines for flouters will be in the order of RM2,000.

Some public places such as night markets may have to limit the number of people who can enter, according to new guidelines.

Taiwan, with a population of 24 million, has reported a total of 608 cases of the virus and seven deaths. It has about 60 active cases. Life has largely returned to normal after earlier restrictions on large-scale events were lifted, and the island has never gone into full lockdown.

Still, its borders remain effectively closed to most visitors.

Taipei has also announced it will stop issuing visas to Hong Kong and Macau passport holders from Friday as the Covid-19 situation is worsening in neighbouring Guangdong province in China.

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