TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Cabinet on Friday morning (July 23) announced the country will lower its Level 3 epidemic control restrictions to Level 2 on July 27, and the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed the veracity of leaked plans showing the limit on gatherings will be raised to fewer than 50 people indoors and fewer than 100 outdoors.
Cabinet Spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) said Friday morning that Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) had convened a Cabinet meeting to discuss the country's epidemic prevention measures. After the meeting, Su ruled that based on a plan presented by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Taiwan can lower its nationwide Level 3 alert, which has served as a "soft lockdown," to Level 2, which will take effect on July 27 and end on Aug. 9.
Su made the decision given that community transmission in the country has dropped and after consulting with city and county government leaders. He said that companies and venues that meet the new epidemic prevention guidelines can open for business on July 27, with more details to be announced Friday afternoon.
During a press conference on Thursday afternoon (July 22), Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said the center is working hard to lower the Level 3 restrictions and that guidelines for the next phase are being finalized, while CECC Spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) emphasized that updated measures are still being devised. However, that evening, a document titled "Downgrade of Epidemic Alert to Level 2" with a watermark reading "CECC meeting information, please do not disseminate" began to circulate on social media.
At a press briefing on Thursday evening, Chuang confirmed the leaked documents were indeed a draft of a downgrade to Level 2. Nevertheless, he stressed that it was only a draft and that everything is still being discussed.
Level 2 principles
- With the exception of eating and drinking, people must wear masks at all times when going out
- Implementation of real-name registration
- Maintain a socially safe distance
- Crowd control in business and public areas: social distance of at least 1.5 meters in indoor spaces and 1 meter in outdoor spaces
- The maximum crowd size: under 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors
- Places with indoor dining must follow Ministry of Health and Welfare regulations
Relaxed restrictions for Level 2
Among the new items that stand out is relaxing the limit on group gatherings from fewer than five people indoors to under 50, and fewer than 10 outdoors to under 100. If the number exceeds the limit, organizers must present an epidemic prevention plan.
The CECC announced that it is lifting the ban on indoor dining, including in supermarkets and shopping malls. However, as was the case when it relaxed the ban on eating indoors on July 13, some local governments have already announced they will keep the ban in place, including New Taipei City.
Wedding banquets, public funerals, and temple festivals will be allowed once again. These too must follow the new indoor and outdoor crowd limits, while the custom of toasting each table at wedding banquets will continue to be prohibited.
Kindergartens, daycare centers, after-school programs, and cram schools can be reopened, while sports teams at the high school level and below can return to their schools for training. Indoor venues will be opened to spectators and conferences, and even bowling alleys and pool halls can reopen.
However, in the case of cram schools, they cannot open their doors until all staff members have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days. They also must present proof of a negative rapid screening or PCR test within three days before starting classes, with subsequent screening every seven days.
Chen said that claw machine arcades can reopen, but the owners must have a manager on-site to control the flow of people and ensure social distancing. He stated that spas, massage parlors, and acupressure clinics may open for business, but they must not provide their services in confined spaces and the service areas must be regularly disinfected. Clients must also be spaced out in intervals and both customers and staff must wear masks at all times.
As for outdoor activities, fishing ports and fishing boats will be open to tourists. Leisure farms that feature fishing and shrimp fishing restaurants will also open.
Botanical gardens will open, but visitors must make an appointment, no food or drink will be allowed, and indoor exhibits will remain closed. Places where it is not possible to wear a mask all the time, such as coastal areas, beaches, water parks, will remain off-limits, as will mountain camping areas. Swimming at beaches is still prohibited and surfing and scuba diving is allowed.
Basketball courts will be opened, but players must register through a real-name system and wear masks at all times. As for badminton and tennis courts, people can play singles and even doubles as long as they wear masks.
Sectors staying closed during Level 2
Leisure and entertainment venues:
Karaoke parlors, dance halls, nightclubs, hostess bars, restaurants, bars, MTV clubs, KTV bars, recreation venues, video game arcades, mahjong parlors, and board game cafes.
Community colleges (applications for Fall classes allowed, but face-to-face classes not currently open), senior learning centers, training classes (except driving classes), K book centers, and swimming pools.
Leaked draft of Level 2 restrictions. (Image from reader)
Second page of leaked draft of Level 2 restrictions. (Taiwan News, Reader's image)