Business travelers arriving from certain countries will be allowed to apply to shorten the length of their mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entering Taiwan from June 22, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.
Taiwan has banned entry to most foreign nationals since March 19 to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, with the exception of those who hold Alien Resident Certificates (ARCs) or documents proving that they are in Taiwan for diplomatic or other official purposes, or to fulfill business contracts.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced the change at the CECC's weekly press briefing and unveiled the list of countries and zones from which arriving travelers will be eligible for shortened quarantine.
To apply for the shortened quarantine, Chen said travelers must have received permission to enter Taiwan, plan to spend less than three months in the country, and visit with the purpose of conducting short-term business activities such as product inspection, after-sales service, technical training or contract-signing.
They must also have departed from a country or zone classified by the CECC as having a low or low-to-moderate COIVD-19 infection risk and must not have traveled to any other countries in the past 14 days, said Chen, who also heads the CECC.
The policy will allow travelers arriving from countries classified as low risk to apply through their quarantine accommodation for a self-paid COVID-19 test on the fifth day after their arrival, and to come out of quarantine if they test negative, the CECC said.
Travelers arriving from countries classified as low-to-moderate risk can apply for the test the seventh day after their arrival, the center said.
Those who are released from quarantine will nevertheless have to follow a self-health management protocol for 21 days after their arrival, the CECC added, which includes daily check-ins with local health authorities, daily temperature checks and wearing a face mask in public.
The list, published by the CECC on Wednesday, classified 11 countries and zones as low risk -- New Zealand, Australia, Macau, Palau, Fiji, Brunei, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Mongolia and Bhutan.
It classified South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore as low-to-moderate risk countries, adding that the list will be updated every two weeks to reflect current conditions.
Also on Wednesday, the CECC announced that it is relaxing the requirement of three negative tests for COVID-19 suspects to be released from hospital quarantine.
Under the new guidelines, these individuals can be released after having two consecutive negative tests for the virus taken at least 24 hours apart -- after at least 10 days have passed since the onset of symptoms and after the symptoms have abated for at least 10 days.
The guidelines, which take effect immediately, are based on the latest international studies of how COVID-19 is transmitted and have been approved by the CECC's expert advisory committee, the center said in a press release.
The policy announcements come as the CECC moved to gradually lift some of Taiwan's COVID-19 control measures, amid a run of over two months without a locally transmitted case of the disease.
As of Wednesday, Taiwan has reported a total of 445 COVID-19 cases, of which 434 have recovered, seven have died and four remain in hospital quarantine, according to CECC statistics.