《TAIPEI TIMES》MAC advisers urge relaxing border rules
A ground staff employee shows passengers the way to transit and immigration at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday. Photo: CNA
FINDING A BALANCE: The CECC said that it would consider screening of the general public for SARS-CoV-2 if scientific research warranted it or a high-risk group is found
By Jake Chung / Staff writer, with CNA
The government should consider rebalancing its COVID-19 prevention efforts with its economic interests as prolonged isolation from the international community could contribute to Taiwan being “mainlandized” by China, Mainland Affairs Council （MAC） consultants said at a recent meeting.
The council yesterday revealed the key remarks of the consultants, who were asked to comment on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on China and cross-strait relations.
Taiwan’s success in disease prevention has been hailed worldwide, but the government should consider a reasonable relaxation of restrictions, one academic said, adding that overly severe border controls cannot be sustained over a long period.
The consultants said that the Central Epidemic Command Center （CECC） should consider balancing pandemic prevention with economic development and that the general economy should be a factor when assessing the risks of a further rolling back of the regulations.
Taiwanese students and businesspeople are not barred from entering China, but Chinese students are barred from entering Taiwan, the academic said.
Another consultant said that Taiwan could consider holding videoconferences with Chinese doctors to exchange opinions on COVID-19 and vaccine developments.
However, some experts cautioned against adopting the idea, saying that it could lead to Chinese-made vaccines being imported to Taiwan.
The government should hold Chinese products to the strictest standard, they added.
The MAC said that it would consider a gradual rolling back of regulations depending on the local virus situation, adding that it has made contingency plans for possible scenarios resulting from relaxed regulations.
It said it has initiated a cross-agency discussion on the issue and that further information would be provided should a decision be reached.
Regarding calls to screen the public for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the CECC on Wednesday said that it would consider a general screening if scientific research recommends it or a new high-risk group is discovered.
A general screening in Iceland yielded an increase of 30 confirmed cases from June 15, when the policy was implemented, until Sunday, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung （陳時中） said.
As of Wednesday, 76,883 people have been screened, with 447 confirmed cases, he said, adding that the government ran additional screenings for 5,000 medical personnel, all of which came back negative.
There might be asymptomatic patients in the population, but so far there have only been 47 confirmed cases with an unidentifiable source of infection, Chen said.
The possibility of finding more infected people outside of the groups considered to be most at risk is low, he said, adding that the intensity of the screening could be increased if warranted.
It is difficult to adopt the same standard for two areas faced with different risk factors, Chen said, referring to Taiwan not being on the list of countries to which Europe’s borders will be opened.
The government would continue to negotiate with the EU on reopening borders, on the condition that Taiwan could take the risk, he said..
The center has gradually lifted certain travel regulations, including allowing overseas students from 13 low-risk countries or regions to return to their studies in Taiwan.
The Ministry of Education said that as of 5pm, 272 foreign students had been approved to enter the nation — 95 of them had entered earlier, and 82 entered yesterday.
A Hong Kong student at Yuan Ze University, surnamed Hsieh （謝）, said that he was returning to obtain his diploma in person and to tie up loose ends.