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Taiwan could ease border restrictions, downgrade COVID in July

Nation looking to downgrade COVID-19 from category 5 to 4

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Taipei skyline. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau photo)

Taipei skyline. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Monday (May 9) stated that border controls could be eased and COVID's designation could be downgraded in July, as COVID cases are expected to peak sometime in May or June.

When asked by a reporter when he believed the outbreak would peak during a press briefing that morning, Chen responded that it is estimated to peak at some point between May 20 and June 10.

Responding to a question on whether Taiwan will open its borders to foreign travelers, Chen said in terms of the pandemic, "it's not a big problem to open up," predicting that in July border restrictions will be eased as the outbreak wanes. However, he said there is still a concern this could further increase the number of cases in hospitals and stated that conditions are currently not suitable for opening up the borders.

The CECC head said that because the outbreak is estimated to peak between the end of May and the beginning of June, cases will likely go down in July. Once the country is past the peak, there should be sufficient medical resources and fewer issues with opening up the borders, he said.

Chen said that it may also be possible for COVID to be downgraded from a category 5 to a category 4 communicable disease when cases go down by two thirds, which Chen estimated would occur in mid to late July. If such a downgrade were to occur, the daily number of cases would no longer be announced.

CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that once COVID is downgraded to category 4 communicable, hospitals would need only report severe cases. Chuang pointed out that category 4 cases must be reported within 24 hours to one month of diagnosis, while category 5 cases must be reported within 24 hours.

According to Taiwan's Communicable Disease Control Act, category 4 communicable diseases, such as endemic typhus fever, Lyme disease, and severe complicated influenza, "require monitoring of their occurrence or implementation of preventive and control measures." Category 5 communicable diseases, such as yellow fever, Ebola virus, and Zika virus, "require formulation of preventive and control measures or preparedness plans in accordance with this Act."

COVID was designated a category 5 communicable disease on Jan. 15, 2020.