Taipei, Feb. 24 (CNA) All travelers entering Taiwan from South Korea will have to be quarantined for 14 days starting this week because of a sharp escalation of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak there, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced Monday.
The quarantine policy will be phased in on different days, however, depending on whether a person is Taiwanese or a foreign national, CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at a press conference.
Foreign nationals who travel to Taiwan from South Korea will have to undergo home quarantine for 14 days starting Tuesday, Chen said, while Taiwanese nationals returning from South Korea will only face the 14-day quarantine requirement starting Thursday.
Taiwanese who return Tuesday or Wednesday will be subject to the much less strict self-health management protocol.
The two-day buffer period was adopted in consideration of Taiwanese travelers who are currently in South Korea, Chen said, hoping that the measure will encourage them to return before Thursday.
Individuals in quarantine are forbidden to leave their place of residence for 14 days, and they receive daily health checks from their ward chief.
Those in the self-health management protocol are advised to minimize the time they spend in public, wear surgical masks when they leave their homes, and take their temperatures twice a day.
Chen said the new policy was in response to the rapidly escalating COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea, which has exploded in part due to cluster infections linked to a large church and a hospital near the city of Daegu.
To date, the country has reported 833 cases of the disease and seven deaths, and there is already widespread community transmission of the coronavirus taking place.
The CECC also announced Monday that it has raised its travel warning for South Korea from Level 2 to Level 3, the highest on its three-tier scale, which urges people to avoid unnecessary travel to the destination.
The only other regions that have been issued a Level 3 warning by the CECC are China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Travelers who are returning from countries that have received either a Level 1 or Level 2 travel warning from the CECC have to follow the self-health management guidelines for 14 days, effective immediately, CECC advisor Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said at the press conference.
These include Singapore and Japan, which have been issued a Level 2 warning, as well as Thailand, Italy and Iran, which have received a Level 1 warning.
The policy was adopted because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in these countries, Chang said.