Taiwan has thrived as a bubble of normalcy through most of the pandemic. But now, as it faces a growing coronavirus outbreak, the island’s health authorities have relaxed several preventive measures to ease pressure on medical resources for the long battle against the virus.
In the latest move on Sunday against the highly transmissible Omicron variant, health officials announced that newly infected people with no symptoms or only mild ones no longer needed to stay in quarantine facilities for 10 days once they are tested and found not to be highly contagious.
Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s health minister, said in a press briefing on Sunday that the island’s health experts had examined the 1,530 locally transmitted cases confirmed from Jan. 1 through Saturday and found that 99.8 percent were asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. The experts therefore decided that those who do not need to stay at the health facilities for treatment could leave early, Mr. Chen said.
Taiwan has kept its Covid death count and case numbers relatively low, and reported an average daily case count of 220 over the past week, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Over the past few weeks, health officials have reiterated that the current outbreaks in several cities in Taiwan are stable and controllable.
In March, the health authorities shortened the quarantine period for all international arrivals and for close contacts of anyone who tests positive to 10 days, down from 14.
The health officials are also considering including a vaccination campaign in their efforts to gradually lift the quarantine measures, according to Mr. Chen. He said that the authorities were considering including people with three vaccine doses into the groups that are not required to quarantine. As of Friday, Taiwan had fully vaccinated 78 percent of its eligible population, according to the Taiwanese government.
Whether Taiwan will further lift the quarantine measures depends on the control of the current outbreaks, health officials say.
Taiwan has favored a less heavy-handed approach than neighboring China, which is struggling to contain its worst Covid-19 surge since the coronavirus first emerged in the city of Wuhan. But unlike other Asian countries like South Korea and Singapore that are reopening the borders, Taiwan has opened only for foreigners who come for business.