Taiwan and Stanford discussing project on safe international travel

CNA file photo of Taoyuan International Airport

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan is in talks with Stanford University to create a protocol for travelers that would help shorten the amount of time they have to stay in quarantine when they go abroad, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed Monday.

The project was proposed by researchers at Stanford University in the United States, and is still under discussion, CECC advisor Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said at the center’s daily press conference.

News about the proposal was first reported by the Financial Times.

The aim of the project is to find the shortest safe quarantine period that allows authorities to be sure that travelers are not infected with COVID-19.

According to Chang, the plan is to fly a group of people from the U.S. to Taiwan, all of whom will be tested for COVID-19 and quarantined before boarding.

Those who test negative would board the same flight and enter quarantine again when they arrive, during which they will be regularly tested for COVID-19, Chang said.

“We’ll then see if the tests taken before boarding would help us confirm that these travelers don’t have the virus without having to wait for 14 days,” Chang said.

The details of the project are still being worked out, Chang noted, so there has yet to be a decision on when it will be launched.

At the press event, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Taiwan’s border restrictions will definitely be relaxed in the future, and though there is the desire to shorten the mandatory quarantine period, the decision must be backed by science.

Currently, Taiwan bans the entry of foreign nationals with few exceptions, and all overseas arrivals including Taiwanese nationals are subject to a 14-day quarantine upon entry.

If the study proves successful, it would be beneficial in relaxing border controls and could be used as a guideline for international travel, Chen said.