ARC holders angered over coronavirus test requirement to enter Taiwan

Foreign residents complain about being unfairly targeted by Taiwan's coronavirus testing requirement

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(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Foreign residents of Taiwan are lodging complaints with the government over a policy that requires Alien Resident Certificate (ARC, 居留證) holders to provide proof of a negative test result for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).

On June 24, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced that it would allow foreign nationals to travel to Taiwan for reasons other than tourism and "regular social visits," with the requirement that they submit proof upon arrival of a negative nucleic acid test (NAT) report for the coronavirus that had been completed within three days before boarding a flight to the country. After airport screening procedures, the passengers must begin a 14-day quarantine period (with the exception of business travelers from low- and medium-risk countries, who only have to undergo 5- and 7-day quarantines, respectively) and pass another test for COVID-19 before they can be released.

As can be seen from a chart posted by the National Immigration Agency (NIA) on Monday (June 29), foreign visitors, including Hong Kong citizens, Macau citizens, and ARC holders, are subject to this testing requirement. However, many foreign residents have complained on Facebook that Taiwanese, foreign students, migrant workers, and Chinese spouses are exempt from the testing requirement and need only undergo the 14-day home quarantine.

Some have complained that tax-paying foreign residents were being lumped into the same category as tourists, although tourists are actually still banned from traveling to Taiwan. Others questioned the logic of forcing ARC holders to undergo testing beforehand, while foreign students and migrant workers are not.

The explanation provided by MOFA and the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) in their press releases is that because the entry of foreign diplomats, migrant workers, and foreign students is being supervised by MOFA, the Ministry of Labor, and the Ministry of Education, the "risk levels for these groups are manageable." Some commentators on social media have taken this to mean that Taiwan considers foreign residents to be somehow "unmanageable" and is unfairly singling them out.

When Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) first announced the testing policy for foreigners on June 8, he said that the CECC would not implement mass testing for Taiwanese entering the country from abroad since the government is obligated to treat them if they are infected. However, he said the government is not obligated to treat infected foreign travelers and claimed that if sick foreign passengers are allowed to enter without screening, they could quickly start a local outbreak.

Chen's comments at the time were taken as discriminatory by some in the foreign community and have angered foreign residents further now that it has become apparent that ARC holders, who generally also have National Health Insurance cards, are among those Taiwan is "not obligated to treat." Some foreign residents feel that this testing policy, combined with the fact that they are not eligible, for the stimulus vouchers, adds insult to injury and tarnishes the image that Taiwan is trying to portray as a country that welcomes foreign talent.

In an attempt to affect change, foreign netizens are writing letters to Chen's Minister of Health and Welfare Mailbox to ask that the policy be amended to provide an exemption of the testing requirement for ARC holders.