TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Sunday (Oct. 3) will announce details on a loosening of outdoor mask rules.
During a press conference on Friday (Oct. 1), Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that as local COVID cases have dropped substantially and there are many situations in which people in open spaces do not come into close contact with others, the center will on Sunday announce a loosening of the requirement to wear a mask at all times when outdoors.
In a Facebook post uploaded at noon on Friday, Minister without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) wrote that he ran into Chen and asked him if it was necessary to wear a mask when hiking in the mountains. He claimed that Chen responded by saying, "Why would you need to?"
Chang said that many people including himself had believed that masks were mandatory at all times when going outside. Chen responded by saying, "There is no such requirement. When out in an open field without any people, there is no need to wear a mask."
Chen then added, "You only need to wear one when coming close to other hikers." Chang then asked Chen if he could reveal these comments to the public and he agreed.
The post quickly went viral with many netizens hoping that there would finally be some loosening in outdoor mask regulations. During the press briefing that afternoon, a reporter asked Chen whether he could confirm the comments by Chang.
The CECC head responded by stating that the center will announce adjustments to outdoor masking-wearing rules on Sunday. Chen said that he has received feedback from the Council of Agriculture and other government departments that it is "a bit unreasonable" for people plowing fields alone or hiking on their own or with family members in the mountains to have to wear face masks.
Chen said that considering there have not been more than two local COVID cases in a single day in September, the CECC is indeed considering loosening regulations on wearing masks in open areas. He indicated that this relaxing of the rules would allow members of the public to remove their masks if they are in "well-ventilated outdoor open spaces" that have few people, but did not directly respond to a question about relaxing mask rules indoors.
He pledged to provide specifics on the new regulations on Sunday but stressed that people must continue to wear masks outdoors if they are in crowded places. Chen also emphasized that people must continue to follow existing rules until a change has been officially announced.