Taiwan teams up with Stanford to design protocols for travel resumption

Taiwan hopes to provide model for restoring international travel as countries open up

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Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport 

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan is joining hands with Stanford University in the U.S. to design a mechanism for effective testing and quarantine as the island country prepares to relax travel restrictions next month.

The collaboration involves Stanford University School of Medicine sending 500 people from San Francisco to Taipei, where they will undergo testing every two days in a 14-day quarantine period. These individuals must test negative for the coronavirus (COVID-19) and be placed under quarantine prior to their flights to Taiwan, reported the Financial Times.

The aim of the experiment is to work out the shortest possible isolation requirement for travelers, instead of the two-week rule currently being applied by most countries, said Jason Wang, a professor at Stanford Medical School who is participating in the project. Details of the scheme are being hammered out, said Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳), an infectious disease doctor and member of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

Results of the trial will serve as reference for governments to develop guidelines for opening up their borders. “We’d like to find ways to resume international travel based on scientific evidence, and hopefully the model will further prove that Taiwan can help,” said Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), head of the CECC, at a daily coronavirus briefing on Monday (May 18).

Taiwanese authorities are mulling plans to allow the entry of travelers who are visiting the country for vital political or economic reasons. Health certificates and centralized quarantine may be required for these visitors, Chen said Saturday.

Travel links with China will not be restored sooner than with other countries, as China’s lack of transparency in its handling of the crisis remains a cause for concern, the Financial Times quoted Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) as saying. Chen is an epidemiologist who fought a hard battle in the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic, when Taiwan was excluded from the global health system and learned a tough lesson.

The public are urged not to let their guard down despite Taiwan having gone 36 days without local infections and 11 days without new cases. As of Monday, Taiwan has recorded 440 confirmed cases and seven deaths.