CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan to tighten quarantine rule amid mutant COVID-19 variant fears

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced Friday plans to tighten quarantine rules following the identification of a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant in parts of the world, requiring travelers from six countries to stay in government quarantine facilities for 14 days on arrival in Taiwan.

The new rule takes effect on Nov. 29 and will affect travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe, the CECC said, assuring the public that there have been no cases of super-mutant "B.1.1.529" in Taiwan.

Individuals arriving from those countries, including transit passengers and airline crew, must stay at government quarantine facilities at public expense and undergo follow-up tests, according to the CECC.

They also are not allowed to participate in the Dec. 14 - Feb. 14 program, which has looser quarantine rules and is designated for Lunar New Year inbound travelers who are fully vaccinated, it said.

The program comprises the "7+7 plan" for people who were fully vaccinated at least two weeks before their arrival and the "10+4 plan" for those who are not.

The former option allows individuals to spend the first seven days of quarantine in a government facility or designated hotel and the remaining seven days of quarantine at home.

Under the second option, people will quarantine at a designated hotel for the first 10 days and spend the remaining four days at home, where other residents have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks.

Currently, all arrivals in Taiwan have to quarantine for 14 days at either a government facility or a designated hotel to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

According to foreign wire news, there are concerns the new strain, which was first found in Botswana and will likely be named "Nu," can infect vaccinated people more easily than the Delta variant.

However, as there are no direct flights between Taiwan and those countries considered high risk, the threat from the new variant could be relatively small, CECC head Chen Shih-chung (???) said during a daily briefing.

CECC Deputy Director-General Lo Yi-chun (???) said experts were concerned about the mutated strain because it had features of several variants, including the Alpha, Gamma and Lambda strains, and was likely to be more infectious.

There have been 77 B.1.1.529 cases confirmed in South Africa, four in Botswana and two in Hong Kong as of Friday, Lo said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel