TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwanese public health experts on Monday called for all travelers entering Taiwan from overseas to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, following a model used in Iceland to kick start its economy amid the pandemic.
Iceland has become a model of coronavirus prevention efforts after going from a high rate of infection in March to only having a handful of new cases now, said Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health (NTUCPH), at a press briefing in Taipei.
Since June 15, passengers arriving in Iceland have been able to choose between a COVID-19 test or be quarantined for two weeks, Chan said.
In the first two weeks of the program, tests were given free of charge, but starting July 1, passengers will need to pay around 15,000 Icelandic krona (NT$3,196) for a single test, the country’s Directorate of Immigration said in a statement on June 9.
Those who test positive will be asked to undergo further tests to determine whether they have an active infection, and those with an active infection must be isolated, the directorate said.
Chan said the model has become an example to follow, and Taiwan can use the idea to formulate its own policies regarding inbound and outbound passengers.
“I think testing all those who enter Taiwan is already unavoidable. It is something the country must do. And we can use the results to adjust the standard 14-day quarantine,” Chan said.
Carrying out testing for incoming passengers will help business travelers and facilitate the movement of professionals with technical skills who travel a lot, Chan said.
Taiwan currently requires all people arriving from overseas — whether a Taiwanese citizen or foreign national — to be quarantined for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Most foreign nationals are banned from entering Taiwan, except for Alien Resident Certificate holders or people who live in Taiwan for diplomatic or business purposes.
Taiwan eased its quarantine restrictions for business travelers on June 22, allowing travelers from 15 countries and territories classified as low risk and low-to-moderate risk to remain in quarantine for only five or seven days, respectively, after arriving.
Chan and NTUCPH vice dean Chen Hsiu-hsi (陳秀熙) also advocated both outbound and inbound tests to help identify asymptomatic cases.
Chen cited the recent case of a Japanese student in her 20s, who had been studying at a university in southern Taiwan since February but tested positive for COVID-19 in a PCR test after she returned to Japan on June 20.
“If we had our own testing at the border, then we would know if she was really infected in Taiwan or if there was a problem with her test in Japan,” Chen said.
Of the 123 of the people she came in contact with in Taiwan who were tested for COVID-19, 109 of the tests came back negative on June 25 and the other 14 came back negative on June 26, the Central Epidemic Command Center said last week.
Taiwan has recorded a total of 447 COVID-19 cases, of which it has classified 356 as imported, 55 as locally acquired and 36 as a cluster infection on board a naval ship that originated in Taiwan.