《TAIPEI TIMES》 Hospital visits are suspended across Taiwan
Children wearing masks to help protect against the spread of COVID-19 play in a 3D gallery of Taiwanese landmarks in Taipei on Monday. Photo: Chiang Ying-ying, AP
LEVEL 2 ALERT STAYS: Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said restrictions are mostly the same until after the Lunar New Year holiday
By Lee I-chia / Staff reporter
The Central Epidemic Command Center （CECC） yesterday announced that a level 2 COVID-19 alert would be extended to Feb. 7, and that tightened visitor restrictions at hospitals and long-term care facilities would be expanded to cover the whole nation, effective immediately.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung （陳時中）, who heads the center, said that domestic restrictions would mostly remain the same, including the extended mask mandate that was implemented on Jan. 9.
As announced on Saturday, drinking and eating are banned on public transport, including buses, trains, boats and domestic flights, he said.
Business and public venues have been asked to strictly implement contact registration, temperature measurements, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and employee health management, as well as to immediately respond to confirmed cases, he said, adding that retail stores and markets must follow capacity limit guidelines and are banned from offering food samples.
Restaurants are also required to provide handwashing facilities or hand disinfectant, prohibit guests from raising a toast at each table and strictly implement contact registration, Chen said, adding that if they fail to comply with the rules after being fined and asked to improve, they would be banned from offering dine-in services.
Religious venues and gatherings should follow the tightened guidelines announced by the Ministry of the Interior on Saturday, which include strictly observing social distancing indoors and outdoors, he added.
For any activity that could attract more than 500 attendees at places of worship, organizers need to present an infection prevention plan that must be approved by their local government, the Ministry of the Interior has said.
After the CECC announced tightened visitor restrictions at hospital and residential long-term care facilities in Taipei, New Taipei City, Taoyuan and Keelung, the rules were expanded to cover the whole nation from yesterday.
“Visiting hospitalized patients is prohibited at all hospitals nationwide, unless under exceptional conditions, and the ... visitors must have a negative result from an antigen or polymerase chain reaction test for COVID-19 within three days of the visit,” Chen said, adding that fully vaccinated visitors can undergo a government-funded test.
Before being hospitalized, people who are fully vaccinated can undergo a government-funded test for COVID-19, and each hospital patient can only have one accompanying caregiver, who is also eligible for a government-funded test if they are fully vaccinated, otherwise they must pay for their test weekly, he said.
All healthcare workers in high-risk hospital departments — emergency rooms, intensive care units or those that handle the treatment of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients — and who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose, should receive their booster before Tuesday next week, Chen said.
The general rule for visiting long-term care facilities is the same — no visiting is allowed, unless under special circumstances, he said.
New residents must provide a negative COVID-19 test result from within three days of moving in, and restrictions would be placed on them for the first 14 days based on the percentage of vaccinated staff members and residents at the facility, he added.
A police officer, left, explains tightened visitor restrictions at the entrance of the National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei yesterday. Photo: CNA
A store owner in Taipei yesterday stands beside a sign reminding customers to comply with disease prevention measures when entering the store. Photo: CNA