CECC receives guidelines from Taiwan Tourism Bureau on opening borders

After President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, 19 August, asked for a timetable for Taiwan to open up to tourists, the Central Epidemic Command Center refused to commit to specifics due to fears of a new wave of COVID cases.

During a speech marking the start of the 2022 Taiwan Tourism Expo, Tsai announced said she has asked the Cabinet for a timetable for opening Taiwan up to international tourism and said the “light of dawn” for the tourism industry is coming soon. At a later press conference, CECC head Victor Wang found himself bombarded with questions about when the new tourism plan would be implemented.

The first question was whether the CECC had received guidance from the Tourism Bureau on lifting border restrictions for tourism. Wang confirmed the CECC had received guidelines from the bureau on Thursday (Aug. 18).

Wang said the center is reviewing the guidelines and if it has any differing opinions, it will discuss them with the Tourism Bureau. He then thanked the bureau for the information, described as preparations for opening the borders, and said that further discussions would be held on the matter.

Another reporter then asked if Wang could provide more details on the Tourism Bureau’s plan and what date the borders will open. Wang said the scheme has not yet been finalized, but once it is, the Tourism Bureau will take part in the CECC’s press conference to explain the details.

Wang said that no specific timeline has been set for when the border restrictions will be lifted because the center needs to first see how the pandemic progresses before making a final decision.

Another journalist asked whether there are targets that must be met before the borders can be reopened. Wang said the center had received instructions from Tsai and the Cabinet, but he said that epidemic prevention must first be prioritized before the economy and tourism.

He said loosening restrictions will depend on the pandemic and risk assessment. It will be implemented in stages with the goal of “enabling citizens to fully return to a normal life, including tourism.”

Wang was also asked whether he could provide the public with a rough timeframe for when border controls will be eased, such as month or time of year. Wang insisted the opening of the borders would not be based on a time schedule, but rather a plan that would be implemented incrementally.

He said the “3 + 4” quarantine and “one person per room” rules would be addressed first. Another issue will be whether the capacity of epidemic prevention hotels can be increased.

Wang said that consideration will then be given to whether tour groups can depart from and enter the country. An assessment of the “0 + 7” plan will also be made, said Wang.

The CECC head said that a major factor is the anticipated new wave of cases of the BA.5 subvariant of Omicron. He said the key would be to observe its severity and see how long it lasts.

He said that if the BA.5 wave ends quickly, border controls can be loosened more quickly.

Another reporter quoted the Civil Aeronautics Administration as saying that it will soon be able to raise the weekly passenger quota from 40,000 to as much as 80,000. Wang said that in addition to the capacity of the airport, the capacity of epidemic prevention hotels must also be taken into account.

He said that given the continuation of the “3 + 4” quarantine, on-arrival testing, and transportation restrictions, there is a limit to how many passengers can be processed per day. He said there is some room for an increase in passengers, but this will depend on the situation.

Wang also said the BA.5 outbreak is expected to peak in either late September or early October. If the scale is not that large, then the center can examine opening the borders sooner, Wang said. (Story courtesy of Taiwan News)


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