CORONAVIRUS / CECC to raise travel alert for 27 European countries to highest level

Taipei, Taiwan will upgrade its travel warning for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and 27 countries in Europe to its highest level, effective March 17, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Saturday.

In the Level 3 warning, the CECC advised potential travelers to avoid any unnecessary trips to the United Kingdom and the 26 member states in the Schengen border-free area, citing the escalation of the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe.

Furthermore, under the warning, arriving passengers from Dubai and the 27 countries will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days, with immediate effect, said Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (???), who heads the CECC.

He said passengers who had already boarded their flights from those areas before 2 p.m. Saturday (Taiwan time), will not be subject to the quarantine rule but will be asked to conduct self-health management on arrival in Taiwan.

The 27 European countries listed in the CECC's Level 3 travel warning are the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Speaking at the CECC's daily press briefing, Chen said that starting March 17, foreign visitors who do not have residence in Taiwan will have the option of paying to stay at one of several self-quarantine facilities set up by the government.

Meanwhile, citing a rapid increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, the CECC issued a Level 2 travel alert for Washington, New York and California, and a Level 1 advisory for the other 47 states in the country.

All other countries in the world that had not been listed in the CECC's three-tier travel warning system have been placed under a Level 1 advisory, with immediate effect, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CECC said.

Under a Level 2 alert, visitors to the countries are advised to take personal prevention measures against infection, while a Level 1 advisory suggests that travelers observe the response regulations pertaining to the cononavirus in the countries.

In addition, passengers arriving from countries and areas under a Level 1 or 2 travel alert are required to conduct 14 days of self-health management by minimizing time spent in public, wearing a face mask and checking their temperature twice daily.

According to Chen, the CECC is mulling whether to make surgical face masks available for sale to all arriving passengers at Taiwan's main ports of entry, considering the shortage of masks in many countries.

If such a plan is implemented, however, it will not be until the supply in Taiwan increases to meet demand, he said.

Also following the CECC's announcement of its travel alerts for the United States, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Saturday also raised its travel advisory to yellow for Washington, New York and California.

The alert -- the third highest in the MOFA's four-color coded travel advisory system -- warns travelers to heighten vigilance over their personal safety and advises potential visitors to the areas to reconsider their travel plans.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel