TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan on Wednesday (Aug. 12) began implementing a new requirement that all arriving passengers from the Philippines must undergo testing for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) and go directly to government-run quarantine centers.
As coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket in the Philippines, which is the source of the majority of Taiwan's imported cases, Health Minister and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced on Sunday (Aug. 9) that starting on Wednesday, all passengers arriving from the Southeast Asian country must undergo testing for COVID-19 and enter a government-monitored quarantine facility for 14 days. Previously, testing was only carried out at the airport if a passenger exhibited or reported symptoms of the virus, and new arrivals could pick and choose where they spent their quarantine.
Before the rule change, foreign nationals or Taiwanese had the option of undergoing their 14-day quarantine at home or in a hotel. Given the larger number of infections coming from the Philippines, the CECC has now decided to funnel all incoming passengers into centralized quarantine facilities to better monitor them for signs of the disease and more effectively isolate them from the general population.
On Wednesday, the first day of the new regulations, only three passengers aboard Philippine Airlines flight PR890 arrived at Taoyuan Taiwan International Airport at 7:44 a.m., reported CNA. After filling out questionnaires and being tested for the coronavirus, the three passengers were taken by special epidemic prevention taxi to an assigned quarantine center.
On Sunday, Chen stated that in the case of Taiwanese citizens and foreign nationals with Alien Resident Certificates (ARC) or resident visas, the government will pay for all the expenses incurred during the 14-day quarantine process. However, foreigners without residency must first provide a negative COVID-19 test result issued within three days prior to boarding the flight to Taiwan and will be required to pay NT$1,500 (US$50) per day during the quarantine.
According to Chen, from July 26 to Aug. 8, 15 out of 281 passengers arriving from the Philippines tested positive for coronavirus, a rate of about five percent. In contrast, the average percentage of passengers coming from the rest of the globe with the virus is only 0.03 percent.
The Philippines currently has 139,538 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 2,312 deaths. Taiwan, in contrast, has managed to limit the outbreak to 481 cases, 389 of which were imported.