《TAIPEI TIMES》 Japan virus case sparks concern

LOCAL TRANSMISSION? The student came to study in Taiwan in late February and 125 people who came into close contact with her have been put in home isolation

By Lee I-chia / Staff reporter

A Japanese student in her 20s has tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home from Taiwan on Saturday last week, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, raising concern that it could be the first case of a local transmission since April 12.

The student arrived in southern Taiwan in late February and 125 people who came into close contact with her have been put in home isolation, while 15 other people have been placed under self-health management, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC.

She has not been listed as a domestic case as the center must confirm the test result with Japan, but it might have been a case of local transmission, Chen added.

In related news, the CECC yesterday announced that foreign travelers from today can transit through Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, while border controls would be loosened on Monday next week to allow special entry to people from Hong Kong and Macau, and those with special humanitarian or emergency needs.

In line with “retaining strict border controls while loosening domestic restrictions,” the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has proposed a gradual lifting of the ban on international transit through Taiwan, which was implemented on March 24, Chen said.

As of midnight today, international travelers connecting to flights at Taoyuan airport would be taken along designated lanes for arrivals and departures, and escorted to separate rest areas, while food services and duty-free shopping would be under the control of specialized airport personnel, said Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥), deputy head of the CECC.

In the first phase, international transits would be allowed for three airline groups — EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空) and Uni Air (立榮航空); China Airlines Ltd (中華航空) and Mandarin Airlines (華信航空); and Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd (國泰航空) — but the transits must be within the same group and would be limited to eight hours, he said.

The policy is to be re-evaluated every two weeks and would be amended to match the situation on the ground, he added.

In loosening border controls, priority would first be given to people with humanitarian needs and business travelers, then tourists, as the CECC must ensure adequate quarantine capacity while the global COVID-19 situation remains grave, Chen Shih-chung said.

Starting on Monday next week, people from Hong Kong, Macau and those with special humanitarian or emergency needs can apply for special entry to fulfill a business contract; transfer within a multinational corporation; participate in trade or business exchanges; or as a holder of an Alien Resident Certificate, to reunite with a Taiwanese spouse or with their children, Chen Tsung-yen said.

However, Chinese travelers must apply for special approval to enter or transit through Taiwan, Chen Tsung-yen said, adding that there is still some uncertainty about the coronavirus situation in China.

Applicants for special entry must provide a certificate to their airline showing a negative result on a polymerase chain reaction test conducted within three days of boarding and undergo a 14-day quarantine period upon their arrival in Taiwan, the CECC said.

For faster entry upon arrival, the CECC said that arriving passengers should fill out the Quarantine System for Entry form available online at hdhq.mohw.gov.tw before checking in.

Taoyuan International Airport Corp (桃園國際機場公司) is to ensure that transitting passengers move along separate routes at the airport, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said.

The airport simulated different scenarios and conducted drills for one month, such as training airport employees on how to safely escort transit passengers to duty-free shops, Lin added.

Additional reporting by Shelley Shan



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