Starting February 7, Taiwan will no longer require direct travellers from mainland China to undergo PCR tests upon arrival at airports and ports, and those transferring via Hong Kong or Macau will no longer be required to present negative COVID-19 test results before their departure. The announcement was made by the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control on Jan. 31.
Despite these changes in entry policies, the seven-day self-initiated prevention rule remains and applies to all travellers arriving in Taiwan. Upon arrival, travellers will receive a rapid test kit from the health authority, and advised to conduct the test only if symptoms appear.
The relaxation of rules for mainland China travellers came as the region spotted a steady fall in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases from the arrivals of four major Chinese airports, as well as Kinmen and Matsu ports, between January 1 and February 4 this year.
“We noticed that the confirmed cases among mainland China travellers found through PCR tests have dropped from 20% to around 1%, which is very low,” said Pi-Sheng Wang, Commander of Central Epidemic Command Center, in a press conference held on Jan. 31.
Most affected mainland China arrivals carried the BA.5 and BF.7 COVID-19 variants, which, according to Wang, are variants that “have emerged across the globe for a few months already”.
The region’s health body also believes that the pandemic has been under control over the past week. According to the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, there were 23,394 new coronavirus cases reported on Tuesday, with around 1.8% being imported cases.
“I think the measure is totally fine. Currently, we’re only open to businessmen, students and relatives,” said Amanda Wang, a university student in Taiwan. “As other countries are opening up [for tourists], it’s the time to follow [their move].”
Wang thinks that lifting entry restrictions was unlikely to impact Taiwan society.
“I think we’re treating the pandemic as a common cold, just like other countries,” she added.
Hong Kong travel agencies also welcome the new policy, especially those specializing in serving travellers heading to Taiwan from mainland China.
“I think mainland customers take up roughly 10% of our Taiwan trips,” said Moon Yau, Assistant General Manager at Sunflower Travel, one of the longest-standing travel agencies in Hong Kong.
“Due to political circumstances, it’s difficult to have direct flights from mainland China to Taiwan, so many mainland China travellers would actually choose to transfer in Hong Kong.”
Yau believes that the policy will benefit the company’s business and expects Taiwan to gradually loosen travel constraints in due course.
“Of course, scrubbing the PCR test requirement would make things much more convenient [for travellers and tour operators],” he said. “The situation may not restore to pre-pandemic times for now but I think it’s gradually opening up, and that’s excellent.”
Featured Image: Prudence Lam