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Taiwan eyes mid-October end to Covid-19 quarantine on road to reopening

TAIPEI - Taiwan aims to end its mandatory Covid-19 quarantine for arrivals from around Oct 13 and will ease other restrictions from next week as it continues to re-open to the outside world, the government said on Thursday.

Taiwan has kept some of its entry and quarantine rules in place as large parts of the rest of Asia have relaxed or lifted them completely, though in June it cut the number of days required in isolation for arrivals to three from seven previously.

Taiwan has reported six million domestic cases since the beginning of the year, driven by the more infectious Omicron variant. With more than 99 per cent of those showing no or only mild symptoms, the government has relaxed rather than tightened restrictions in its “new Taiwan model”.

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told reporters that from next Thursday, visa-free entry would be resumed for citizens of all countries that previously had that status. This includes Singapore.

The government will also increase weekly arrival limits for international travellers by between 10,000 and 60,000, he said, with no more polymerase chain reaction tests for arrivals.

If “everything is under control”, the government is aiming to end mandatory quarantine for all arrivals from around Oct 13, with arrivals rising to 150,000 a week, Mr Lo said.

“This is the last mile in our fight against the pandemic,” he said, speaking after a weekly Cabinet meeting. He added that the government is making all preparations needed to reopen its door to international tourists and to revive domestic businesses hit by previous Covid-19-related curbs.

Those who test positive, however, still need to quarantine at home or in designated hotels, the government said.

While Taiwan’s vaccination rate is high, the daily number of cases has been rising again, with more than 46,000 reported on Wednesday.

Throughout the pandemic, Taiwan's residents have not been prohibited from leaving and then re-entering the island, but have had to quarantine at home or in hotels for up to two weeks.

Before the pandemic, Taiwan was a popular tourist destination for mainly Asian visitors, with Japan, South Korea and South-east Asia being the most important markets.

Some tourism industry experts said Taiwan would still struggle to compete for visitors with other destinations in the region because of its self-monitoring rules.

“The whole world except China and Taiwan have opened up, and Taiwan has already been too slow and too late,” said expert on tourism management and operations at Tainan University of Technology Robert Kao.

He described the seven days of self-monitoring with no quarantine as “meaningless”, and added that “tourists would opt for countries like Japan or South Korea where there are no such restrictions”. - REUTERS, AFP 

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