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Taiwan looking to lower quarantine to 10 days after Feb. 15

CECC head mentions possible '7 + 3' quarantine option after Lantern Festival, does not rule out eventual '5 + 5'

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(Shutterstock image)

(Shutterstock image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is considering lowering the mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving from overseas from 14 days to 10 after the Lantern Festival.

In an interview with BaoDao Radio (寶島聯播網) host Cheng Hung-yi (鄭弘儀), CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said he hopes to find a "Taiwan model" for streamlined epidemic prevention measures with a shortened quarantine requirement. Chen also said a special program for business travelers could be available as soon as the end of this month.

The CECC head said that in the near future, business visa requirements will be relaxed and the number of days business travelers must undergo quarantine will be shortened. Chen said that after discussions with experts, the center is considering lowering the quarantine to 10 days for all arrivals.

He stressed that the number of quarantine days is based on scientific evidence, including the incubation period of the virus and the effectiveness of COVID tests. He pointed out that the Omicron variant has a more rapid onset and spreads faster than other strains.

According to domestic data on Omicron, Chen said the vast majority of imported confirmed cases are detected within 10 days, and the few cases found after that period have had a high Ct value, indicating a low rate of infectivity. He said that the number of quarantine days will be shortened within a "controllable range" based on this data.

Chen observed that a 10-day quarantine period is currently widely practiced internationally and asserted that "Taiwan should also accept it." He emphasized that in the case of special shortened quarantines for diplomatic or business bubbles, those participating must cooperate with related epidemic prevention measures.

According to Chen, the current "7 + 7" plan was designed based on the CECC's estimate that 98% of cases would be detected within the first seven days. He explained that it is for this reason the first seven days of quarantine are spent in a hotel or quarantine center and the last seven days at home.

When Cheng asked whether the quarantine period would be shortened to 10 days and whether a plan of seven days in a facility and three at home or a half-and-half model would be adopted, Chen said that there would definitely be a "7 + 3" plan eventually but did not comment on the "5 + 5" scheme.

However, Chen did mention that the period required to be spent in a quarantine facility will be shortened and that the shift to home quarantine will be "very important for the mental well-being and physical comfort of those who undergo quarantine." He said that when isolation in quarantine facilities is lowered from 10 to seven or five days, the rules for home quarantine, such as one person per household, must be strictly followed.

Chen cautioned that the Omicron variant has a short incubation period and said the local outbreak situation must be closely monitored in the two days immediately following the Lantern Festival, which is Feb. 15 this year. He said that if there is no significant surge in cases, "it means the community is safe and new policies and changes will be announced."

However, Chen emphasized that even if the quarantine period is shortened, mask rules will not be relaxed because masks are a "part of multi-level epidemic prevention." He called on the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible to improve protection against the virus.