Taiwan will launch new quarantine rules for travelers from Brazil starting this week in response to arrivals from the country who have been confirmed with a new, seemingly more transmissible version of the COVID-19 virus that originated there.
From Feb. 24. all arrivals from Brazil, as well as travelers who have visited or transited through the country in the two weeks prior to coming to Taiwan, will be required to stay in government-designated quarantine centers for 14 days upon arrival.
They will also have to be tested for COVID-19 on their first day of quarantine and prior to completing quarantine, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).
They will not need to pay to stay at the centers, said Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, at a press briefing in Taipei.
The new measure is being enacted because three Taiwanese nationals who returned from Brazil on Jan. 30 were found to be infected with a new version of the COVID-19 virus called the P.1 variant.
The variant was first detected in Japan among travelers who had visited Brazil, and there is evidence to suggest that some of its mutations enable it to spread more easily among people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Research also suggests that the variant can still infect those who have been sickened by previous strains of the COVID-19 virus or who have received vaccinations, the CDC website shows.
Another reason for the measure is Brazil's large number of COVID-19 cases, Chen said.
The South American country has reported over 10 million cases and nearly 250,000 deaths to date. In the past week, Brazil recorded over 47,000 new cases per day, which was the second highest in the world, according to Chen.
At the press briefing, Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), deputy chief of the CECC's medical response division, said that the three Taiwanese nationals who were infected with the P.1 variant all displayed only mild symptoms of COVID-19.
They have either recovered and been discharged, or are close to being discharged, Lo said.
As the P.1 variant has already spread to other countries, as have other notable COVID-19 virus variants, Chen said they will adjust the quarantine requirements of travelers as needed.
Under the CECC's current rules, travelers from the United Kingdom, South Africa and the Kingdom of Eswatini also have to quarantine at government centers for 14 days and are tested twice after they arrive in Taiwan, due to new variants of the COVID-19 virus detected there.
At present, there are around 45,000 rooms available at government quarantine centers, less than 20 percent of which are occupied, so the new measure is not expected to overwhelm capacity, Chen said.
Taiwan reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, with the total number of cases remaining at 942, according to the center.