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'Impossible this year': Taiwan's health chief rules out full reopening in 2022

Chen signals Taiwan will not follow the rest of Asia anytime soon

Plane flies off a tarmac. (Getty images)

Plane flies off a tarmac. (Getty images)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) has ruled out the possibility of Taiwan joining other Asian countries in fully ending quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers.

When asked by reporters at a press conference on Wednesday (March 23) whether Taiwan would follow countries like Singapore, which removed its quarantine requirement this week, Chen stated: “It is impossible this year. This will be a difficult thing to predict.”

Chen acknowledged that eventually opening up is necessary and that all aspects must be considered, but he said it should be done to minimize the potential damage, be it physiological or psychological damage, per MirrorMedia.

Chen’s comments come amid a wave of restriction loosening by governments throughout the region. While Taiwan’s health leaders remain vague on the reopening schedule, many countries throughout "safety-first" Asia are pushing ahead into the post-pandemic era.

Singapore will let all vaccinated travelers into the country with just a pre-departure COVID-19 test starting April 1. The city-state is also doing away with all quotas on the number of daily arrivals, per a Straits Times report. Malaysia is set to do the same next month.

Japan is resuming a gradual easing of restrictions, especially for foreign students, technical workers, and business travelers. Tokyo aims to hit 10,000 international arrivals by April 1.

Meanwhile, South Korea is moving forward with plans to reopen even as it experiences a relative bump in case numbers. From April 1, vaccinated travelers that register with the country’s tracking system and show a negative test result can enter quarantine free.

Vietnam accelerated its plans and fully reopened to travelers on March 15, three months ahead of the original June timeline. Hanoi also announced the resumption of 15-day visa-free entry for citizens from over a dozen countries.

Indonesia lifted restrictions on Bali this month, with plans to open the entire country by April at the latest.

Though Taiwan shortened the mandatory quarantine for arrivals from 14 days to 10 on March 1, with the exemption of qualified business travelers, it has no plans to end the requirement altogether.

In February, Taiwan’s Tourism Bureau expressed hope the country would reopen its borders to tourists by the third quarter of 2022. Chen’s recent comments throw doubt on whether this will eventuate though.