• Directory of Taiwan

Virologist urges Taiwan to think about when to lift all COVID restrictions

Academia Sinica researcher says nation should learn to live with some level of virus in midst

Michael Lai (National Cheng Kung University photo)

Michael Lai (National Cheng Kung University photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Taiwanese virologist has urged the country to begin to think about when to lift its strict border controls, saying that humans must eventually learn to live with the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Michael Lai (賴明詔), a virologist and Academia Sinica researcher, recently returned to Taiwan from the U.S. with his wife. Upon arrival, the couple stayed in a quarantine hotel as required by law, during which time Lai pondered the nation’s handling of the pandemic, TTV News reported on Monday (Sept. 13).

Lai said Taiwan has paid an extremely high social cost to grapple with the disease and that the country should explore how and when to lift all restrictions as the vaccination rate increases, as eliminating the virus entirely is unlikely.

The virulence of the coronavirus will become weaker in a year or two due to evolution, Lai said. He estimated that this fact combined with vaccines means it would take at least another year for Taiwan to return to normal.

The virologist said Taiwan is better equipped than most countries to consider lifting all COVID-19 restrictions and that it is impossible to close the border forever. He added that quarantine, too, has a large cost to society.

He suggested that once the vaccination rate reaches a certain level, all COVID restrictions should be lifted.

The station cited Denmark as an example, which lifted all domestic COVID restrictions once its two-shot vaccination threshold crossed 80% for people aged 12 years old and above.

However, although there appears to be a negligible risk of outdoor COVID transmission, the station assumed the country would be forced to accept mask mandates for a very long time.