TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan on Wednesday added Hong Kong back to its list of regions from which business travelers can apply for shorter quarantine periods upon arrival in Taiwan, as well as reclassified Vietnam’s risk of COVID-19.
Hong Kong was originally included in the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) list of zones with low-to-moderate risk of COVID-19 when the policy was first launched on June 22, but was removed when it saw a surge in cases in late July.
As the situation in Hong Kong has continued to improve, the CECC decided to add Hong Kong back to its low-to-moderate risk list, said Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中).
This allows business travelers from the region to apply to have their quarantine shortened from the normal 14 days to seven days, as long as they take a self-paid COVID-19 test on the seventh day after their arrival.
The CECC also moved Vietnam from the low-to-moderate risk category to a low-risk designation, citing its only slight increase in COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks.
Business travelers from countries deemed of low risk for COVID-19 can apply to have their quarantine lifted by taking a self-paid COVID-19 test on the fifth day after their arrival.
The updated list published by the CECC on Wednesday classified 15 countries and zones as low risk — New Zealand, Macau, Palau, Fiji, Brunei, Thailand, Mongolia, Bhutan, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Nauru, East Timor, Mauritius and Vietnam.
It listed Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong as low-to-moderate risk.
As Taiwan reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the country’s total number of cases remained at 495, with 403 classified as imported. Of the total number, 475 have recovered, seven have died, and 13 are in hospital, according to the CECC.
Globally, COVID-19 has infected more than 27.5 million people in 187 countries and regions and has caused 898,140 deaths, according to CECC statistics as of Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, the CECC said that a Taiwanese teenager that tested positive for COVID-19, whose case intensified calls for universal testing in the nation, would not have posed a risk to Taiwan, even without testing.
The teenager, who lives in the United States, had no symptoms of the disease upon arrival in Taiwan on Aug. 5 or while he was in quarantine, yet the Changhua County Health Bureau had him tested on Aug. 15.
That was a departure from CECC protocols, under which returning travelers who have had no contact with any confirmed COVID-19 patients are tested only if they have symptoms or are traveling from the Philippines.
Chen has since ordered an investigation to examine the situation, which is being carried out by the Department of Civil Service Ethics at the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The case has also intensified discussions over whether Taiwan should implement universal testing on all arrivals for COVID-19, which the CECC has repeatedly rejected.
The CECC said on Wednesday that the teenager was tested for COVID-19 daily between Aug. 15-18, on Aug. 20 and on Aug. 22, with only the test on Aug. 18 coming back negative.
Two other tests on Aug. 23 and Aug. 25 came back negative, and the patient was released from hospital on Aug. 27.
According to the CECC, researchers were unable to cultivate SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) from the patient’s samples taken on Aug. 15 and Aug. 16, which means that the virus in his body was no longer infectious.
This indicates that even if asymptomatic COVID-19 cases are undetected when they enter Taiwan, their ability to infect others will have drastically decreased once they finish the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
If they also follow self-health management protocols after their quarantine, they should pose no risk to Taiwan, the CECC said.