CORONAVIRUS/Plans to further ease mask mandate to be announced after LNY: CECC

01/16/2023 05:46 PM
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CNA file photo
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Taipei, Jan. 16 (CNA) Plans to lift Taiwan's indoor mask mandate are currently under evaluation and will likely be announced after the Lunar New Year holiday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday.

On Dec. 1 of last year, the CECC ended a rule requiring people to wear a mask at all times when outdoors in what it described as a "first-stage" easing of the mandate first imposed in May 2021.

The CECC said at the time that it would also begin evaluating a "second stage" easing of the requirement, in which it would specifically list places where masks need to be worn, such as in hospitals or on public transportation, with no mask mandate as the default in all other settings.

At a press briefing Monday, CECC chief Victor Wang (王必勝) said the CECC is "actively discussing" the next stage of the mask policy and plans to announce "details and a date for implementing it after the Lunar New Year."

"[The regulations] will be eased soon," he said.

Wang was responding to reports over the weekend that Japan is planning to revise its indoor masking guidelines and downgrade COVID-19's classification to the same level as seasonal influenza, possibly as soon as this spring.

With regard to Taiwan, Wang said, the CECC expects to "take action" after the Lunar New Year to change COVID-19's classification from a Category 5 to a Category 4 communicable disease.

Under Taiwan's Communicable Disease Control Act, diseases with a Category 5 classification -- such as the Ebola virus and MERS-related coronavirus -- require the government to formulate "preventive and control measures or preparedness plans," due to their potential to have a "substantial impact" on the health of the population.

Meanwhile, Category 4 communicable diseases, such as severe complicated influenza, only require "monitoring of their occurrence or implementation of preventive and control measures," according to the act.

Discussing COVID-19's current classification, Wang noted that Taiwan has already been through three waves of infections driven by Omicron subvariants, and daily case numbers are currently on the decline.

However, the CECC is still monitoring the potential for a rise in COVID-19 infections after the Lunar New Year holiday, as well as the "significantly different" strains of the virus currently circulating abroad, Wang added.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Wang Shu-fen and Matthew Mazzetta)

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