Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday foreign visitors will not be allowed to enter Taiwan from January 1, in response to the first case of the British variant of Covid-19.

A Taiwanese teenager tested positive with the new variant of the coronavirus one day after arriving in Taipei from London, confirmed Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, who heads the CECC.

The new virus variant, named B.1.1.7, was first detected in the United Kingdom. Scientific evidence is accumulating that the variant may be more transmissible than the strains already spreading rapidly around the world.

As B.1.1.7 spreads across all continents, the CECC decided to upgrade disease prevention measures by tightening quarantine rules and border controls, Chen said.

From January 1, most foreigners will be banned from entering Taiwan. Exceptions are foreign resident visa holders, diplomats, business travelers, spouses and children below 18 of Taiwanese citizens, those who come to Taiwan for humanitarian reasons, and others with special permits. All transit flights through Taiwan will be discontinued as well.

Everyone still needs to have a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test issued three days prior to their arrival, as part of the government’s plan to contain the spread of the virus during wintertime.

From January 15, those who are allowed to enter Taiwan are required to present proof that they have arranged a facility, such as an approved hotel, to stay at during the 14-day quarantine period. They have to sign an affidavit if they choose to self-isolate at home, and violators will be fined up to NT$1 million.

New business travel bubbles will be discontinued, according to the CECC.

From January 1, all business travelers, no matter where they are from, will be required to undergo 14 days of mandatory quarantine, followed by seven days of self-monitoring. This is a tightening of the current policy allowing some business travelers to spend shorter periods in quarantine if they take a self-paid Covid-19 test and present a negative result.

All the new measures will be reviewed and modified on a rolling basis. They may be suspended or extended after a month of observation, Chen said.

On Monday, Japan announced that it will halt all new entries from foreigners who are not residents of the country and require Japanese citizens and foreign residents to submit negative virus test results within three days of departure, if they arrive from countries where the new virus variant has been confirmed.

This week South Korea also extended a ban on direct flights from Britain until January 7 after three people tested positive for the Covid-19 variant.

While Taiwan has not yet announced a ban on flights from the U.K., China Airlines and EVA Airways, Taiwan’s two top carriers, have suspended all their passenger and cargo flights between Taoyuan and London in January.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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