CORONAVIRUS/Quarantine rules relaxed for U.K., South Africa, Eswatini arrivals

04/07/2021 08:20 PM
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Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung. Photo courtesy of the CECC
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung. Photo courtesy of the CECC

Taipei, April 7 (CNA) Strict quarantine requirements placed on arrivals from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Eswatini will be relaxed from Saturday, as the COVID-19 situations in these countries have eased, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.

From Dec. 23, travelers who have visited or transited though the U.K. in the two weeks prior to coming to Taiwan have been required to stay in government quarantine centers upon arrival rather than being able to quarantine at home or in hotels like other travelers.

The same rules were implemented for travelers from South Africa and Eswatini on Jan. 14.

The stricter requirements were put in place because new variants of the COVID-19 virus had been detected in the three countries and they had all seen surges in COVID-19 cases, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said on Wednesday.

In addition, five travelers from the U.K. to Taiwan were confirmed as being infected by one of the new variants of the virus, as was one traveler each from South Africa and Eswatini, Chen said.

In the past few months, however, the number of new cases reported in the three countries have dropped, Chen went on, and Taiwan has not seen any cases of the new variants reported among travelers from these countries.

The CECC has decided, therefore, to allow arrivals from the U.K., South Africa and Eswatini to follow standard quarantine procedures, which allows them to be quarantined at home or at hotels.

Also on Wednesday, Chen said the CECC has revoked Mauritius' status as being of low-to-moderate risk for COVID-19 because the country has seen an increase in case numbers in the past two weeks.

In Taiwan, business travelers from countries deemed to be at low-to-moderate or low-risk for COVID-19 can apply to be quarantined for fewer than the normal 14 days, as long as they take a self-paid COVID-19 test at the end of the quarantine period and it comes back negative.

Those from low-risk countries can apply to have their quarantines lifted on the fifth day after their arrival, while those from low-to-moderate risk countries can do so after seven days.

The current list of countries and regions the CECC deems to be at low risk of COVID-19 are New Zealand, Macau, Palau, Fiji, Brunei, Laos, Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Bhutan, Australia, Singapore and Vietnam.

It has listed Cambodia and Hong Kong as being of low-to-moderate risk.

Chen also said Wednesday that the CECC is considering easing the rules that Taiwanese travelers who visit Palau under the bilateral "travel bubble" have to follow after they return to Taiwan.

Currently, such travelers have to adhere to "enhanced self-health management" rules for five days after they return, which forbid them from going to public spaces and partaking in group activities such as dining out.

They also have to record their daily activities and who they come into contact with, and report their health status to their local authorities.

After the five-day period, they have to follow regular self-health management rules for nine days, which entail avoiding going to public spaces and taking their temperatures twice daily.

Chen said the CECC is discussing the possibility of changing the requirement for travelers to simply 14 days of regular self-health management, as the travel groups are taking thorough COVID-19 prevention measures in Palau.

The travel bubble was launched on April 1, offering streamlined quarantine procedures for visitors from both sides.

(By Chiang Yi-ching)

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