Taiwan closes borders to current, former Wuhan residents

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the epidemic response command center, said travelers will not be permitted to enter Taiwan if they have ever registered Wuhan as their place of residency. (CNA)
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the epidemic response command center, said travelers will not be permitted to enter Taiwan if they have ever registered Wuhan as their place of residency. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan tightened its border control Thursday, mandating a health declaration by all visitors from China and banning the entry of residents of the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of a deadly new coronavirus.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the epidemic response command center, said travelers will not be permitted to enter Taiwan if they have ever registered Wuhan as their place of residency.

Furthermore, he said, all travelers arriving from China and its territories, including Hong Kong and Macau, will be required to complete a health declaration form at Taiwan’s borders.

If the travelers have not visited Wuhan in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Taiwan and they do not have any suspicious health symptoms, they will be allowed to enter Taiwan and their health information will be kept for future reference, Chen said.

If they have visited Wuhan in the 14 days prior to arrival in Taiwan, their health will be monitored for 14 days after they enter Taiwan, according to Chen.

The same will apply to people who arrived in Taiwan from China over the past 14 days, he said.

All arrivals in Taiwan, regardless of where their trips originated, will be required to have heath checks if they show symptoms on arrival of the new infectious disease, dubbed the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), Chen said.

The new measures are part of the Taiwan government’s response to the virus, which broke out in Wuhan last December and has since spread to other parts of China as well as to other countries.

On Tuesday, Taiwan reported its first case, a Taiwanese woman who works in Wuhan and had returned home that day. Since then, Taiwan’s epidemic response command center has raised its alert level from 3 to 2, the second highest on the 3-tier scale.

Nonetheless, Chen said there was no need for the Taiwan public to panic.

“Normal surgical masks are sufficient to guard against the virus,” he said.

There is no need for ordinary citizens to wear respirator masks, Chen said, adding that the government has an adequate supply of face masks. However, it is important to wear the face masks properly and wash one’s hands frequently, Chen said.

Taiwan’s elevated epidemic response measures came hours after Chinese officials imposed a lockdown on Wuhan as part of their efforts to prevent further spread of the disease.

Earlier in the day, Chinese authorities announced the suspension of all public transportation out of Wuhan, including commercial flights, public buses, trains and river boats.

Since the new infectious disease emerged in Wuhan in December last year, China has reported 570 cases and 17 deaths. A few cases have also been reported recently in other countries, including Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and the United States.