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Virus Outbreak: Foreign travelers to be denied entry

Photo by Moralis Tsai on Unsplash

MASS ISOLATION: All travelers who earlier this month entered Taiwan from 27 European countries, Egypt, Turkey or the UAE must undergo a 14-day quarantine

By Lee I-chia / Taipei Times Staff Reporter

Starting today, foreign nationals are to be denied entry into Taiwan and all travelers are to be placed under mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival, the Central Epidemic Command Center announced yesterday.

Travelers who arrived from 27 European countries, Egypt, Turkey or Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), between March 5 and Saturday last week are required to report to their local district or township office and begin a 14-day home quarantine, it said.

The 27 European countries are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the number of imported COVID-19 cases has escalated quickly in the past few days.

“We are banning all foreign nationals from entering the nation,” Chen said. “No matter if you are Taiwanese or non-Taiwanese, all travelers will be subject to a 14-day quarantine after arriving in Taiwan.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) said that the entry ban would cover all foreign nationals, with the exception of Alien Resident Certificate holders, members of diplomatic or official missions, those honoring a business contract and people granted special permission by Taiwan’s representative office in their home nation.

Foreign nationals who are allowed entry would have to comply with the center’s quarantine measures, which might be modified according to the latest developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and announced by the center’s commander, Wu said, adding that the policy was to go into effect at midnight yesterday.

The entry restriction is a necessary measure amid the pandemic, Chen said, adding that handling all returning Taiwanese is already a heavy burden for the government, so it is the right time to enforce tightened restrictions on foreigners.

The center initially tracked down more than 500 people who arrived from the 27 European countries, Egypt, Turkey or the UAE between March 5 and Saturday last week, and who sought treatment for suspected COVID-19 symptoms, Chen said, adding that they would be screened for the coronavirus.

However, due to an increase in returning Taiwanese in the past few days and tested positive, the center is requiring all travelers returning from those areas during the period to undergo a 14-day home quarantine, he said, adding that they could apply for compensation.

Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥) said that the expanded screening would affect an additional 16,000 people, who are required to report their personal information — including their names, national identification number, mobile phone number, address, flight number and health conditions — to their local district or township office.

They would then receive a home quarantine notice informing them to begin the quarantine, Chen said, adding that borough or village wardens would check on them daily during the 14 days.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs at a later news conference clarified the details on the tightened border control measures.

Foreign nationals would not be allowed to enter the nation under visa-waiver programs or with any visa unless they are visiting to fulfill their diplomatic duty, honor contractual obligations or due to an emergency, Bureau of Consular Affairs Director-General Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) said.

People planning to visiting Taiwan for diplomatic duty should obtain a special entry permit from the nation’s representative offices or official documents for the National Immigration Agency to examine, she said.

People visiting Taiwan to honor business agreements should present official certificates to prove the urgency of their visit, she added.

Foreign visitors already in Taiwan cannot extend their stay unless for force majeure reasons, Yeh said.

The government has not banned foreigners from leaving and they should depart if their visas are expiring, Yeh said.

Special approvals could be granted to those who cannot book return flights due to border closures, she said.

The foreign spouses and children of Taiwanese, or holders of an Alien Resident Certificate, can apply with the nation’s overseas representative offices for a special entry permit, she said.

Migrant workers would be allowed entry if they have obtained a permit from the Ministry of Labor and a visa issued by the nation’s representative office in their home country, she added.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Bureau said it has sent an official notice to travel agencies nationwide informing them that they would not be allowed to organize overseas tours or make arrangements for tourists from other countries from today until April 30.

Additional reporting by Lu Yi-hsuan and Shelley Shan

News Source: Taipei Times