Taiwan strives to contain coronavirus spread without lockdown

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中, left) and Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌, right)./CNA

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan will try its utmost to refrain from a lockdown as more and more countries have taken drastic measures, including closing their borders, to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19, the health minister said Tuesday.

“We would seek not to have to seal the country off while we are able to prevent and control the outbreak,” said Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) answering questions from lawmakers about quarantine measures at a plenary session of the Legislative Yuan.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) asked if Taiwan would follow what some countries such as Israel have imposed that everyone — no matter what nationality — entering their borders will be subject to 14 days of home quarantine.

Chen said Taiwan’s current measures are already strict and comprehensive enough to control and prevent the pandemic spread in Taiwan.

However, efforts might have to be strengthened in carrying out the measures, such as monitoring the movements of those placed in home isolation or quarantine, he added.

He would rather not have a lockdown, Chen said.

After eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection were reported Monday, bringing the total cases to 67 in the nation, “the next 14 days are crucial” to see if major outbreaks will occur, he said.

Hours after his remarks at the Legislature, Chen announced 10 more confirmed cases at a daily press briefing by the Central Epidemic Command Center, which he heads.

Asked by opposition Kuomintang lawmaker Liao Kuo-tung (廖國棟) when the government will announce a ban on visits by foreigners after the coronavirus disease spread globally, Chen said that “we are almost there,” but declined to answer if such a ban will come any time soon.

Taiwan has issued the highest Level 3 travel alert to 99 countries and regions — including all the European Schengen-area nations — with travelers arriving from those places required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Canada, Chile, Malaysia and several other countries have closed their borders to visitors, while France has imposed stringent restrictions on peoples’ movement to slow the spread of the coronavirus, according to foreign media reports.