[Last update at 19:30]
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following the escalating outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China, Taiwan’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (BOCA) said on Tuesday (Feb. 4) that foreign nationals having stayed in or traveled to China in the past two weeks would be banned from entering the country, effective from Friday (Feb. 7).
BOCA Director-General Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) made the announcement at a press conference held at the Central Epidemic Command Center on Tuesday afternoon. Flight transfers at a Chinese airport, and visits to Hong Kong and Macau - two of which are special administrative regions of China - are exempt from the new border control measures, Yeh said.
Foreigners who already have a valid residence permit may enter Taiwan even if they have traveled to China in the past two weeks, but they are required to carry out a self-isolation spanning 14 days at their residence to monitor their health upon their return, said Yeh. Those with emergency reasons may still apply for a visa to visit Taiwan, as long as they have not visited areas of China severely affected by the coronavirus outbreak, which are categorized as Level 1 and Level 2 by the Taiwanese authorities, added Yeh.
The new regulations targeting foreign nationals are subject to change according to the development of the virus outbreak, said the director-general.
Despite China being the most affected country by the new virus, the new border control measures do not apply to Chinese nationals. Nor do they affect residents of Hong Kong and Macau.
Currently only Chinese nationals inhabiting Hubei, Guangdong, and Zhejiang Province are entirely banned from entering Taiwan, and Chinese students have been asked to delay returning to the country following a late opening of universities across the island.
The Taiwanese authorities do not restrict Chinese spouses and residents of Hong Kong and Macau from coming to Taiwan.
As of now, China has confirmed more than 20,000 cases of infection by the coronavirus, with 425 people killed. Hong Kong recorded one death from the new virus on Tuesday, as medical staffers moved on to the second day of a strike in protest of the city government’s reluctance to thoroughly close borders with China.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at the press event that the World Health Organization (WHO) had mis-input the confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Taiwan as 13 in its latest report, while the island nation had so far only recorded 10 such cases. The ministry has filed a protest and requested a correction from the WHO via the International Health Regulations, said Chen.
Chen described the incident as a piece of “fake news” issued by the health agency, adding that the WHO should not have made such a serious mistake with regard to disease control.