Taiwan's coronavirus test rule for ARC holders ends tomorrow

Foreign ARC holders had been enraged over requirement they first obtain COVID-19 test before entering Taiwan

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Friday announced that it will be discontinuing a requirement that foreign Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) holders first obtain a negative Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) test certificate before they can board a flight to Taiwan.

During a press conference on Friday to announce a new imported case of coronavirus from South Africa, CECC Spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that as long as foreigners and Hong Kong and Macau citizens have residence permits, they will no longer be required to provide a negative coronavirus test certificate before their departure date, effective on Saturday (July 4). He said the requirement has been removed because in many countries it is very difficult to obtain a coronavirus test.

Chuang said that as long as foreigners and Hong Kong and Macau citizens have Taiwan-issued residence permits, they will be treated the same as Taiwan citizens and will no longer be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test certificate three days before departure for Taiwan.

On June 24, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) announced 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, which had been completed within three days before boarding a flight to the country. However, many foreign residents 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 and guests. Others questioned the logic of forcing ARC holders to undergo testing beforehand, while foreign students and migrant workers are not.

Many foreigners pointed out that it is often very difficult and expensive to undergo a coronavirus test in many countries. Others complained the requirement for the test results to be in English is difficult to meet in non-English speaking countries.

Astute netizens also made the point that it is quite possible to become infected with the disease within the three days after the test is taken, especially during the flight itself. In a bid to mollify ARC holders, the CECC announced on Thursday (July 2) they would be requiring the test to be taken within three business days instead of three calendar days, but foreigners countered that obtaining the results can often take much longer.

Friday's decision could be the result of a mailing campaign directed at the Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), started earlier in the week by fed up foreign residents on Facebook.

According to government statistics, there are 19,000 ARC holders who are currently overseas. There are also about 1,195 Hong Kong and Macau businesspeople who hold gold cards and investment visas and are also now exempt from the coronavirus test regulation.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) told Taiwan News that foreigners who hold a valid residence permit, as well as Hong Kong and Macau citizens who have a valid residence permit, do not need to present a COVID-19 test report prior to boarding a flight to Taiwan. However, upon arrival, they are still required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

If a person wants to apply for a short-term business trip and the shortened quarantine period, they must provide a negative COVID-19 test certificate that has been taken three days prior to boarding their departure flight to Taiwan.