There’s been much talk of “travel bubbles” between countries that have effectively stamped out Covid-19, but thus far none have been implemented. Taiwan’s new rules for shortened quarantines, however, could give us an idea of what global business might look like in the months to come.
Starting on June 22, eligible business travellers to Taiwan can be exempted from the compulsory 14-day quarantine currently in place, according to a statement today (link in Chinese) from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control. The statement didn’t specify what types of business travellers are covered by these new rules, but did list activities like product inspection, skills training, and signing contracts as examples of eligible business engagements.
These travellers, who must come from low-risk places, are eligible to quarantine in a hotel for a shortened seven days instead. On the fifth day, they will be tested for the coronavirus, and if the result is negative they will be free to engage in their business activities. They will have to monitor their temperature and health until the 21st day of their visit, and must keep a record of people they see. They’re also urged to avoid public places as much as possible, and to wear a mask when out and about.
Business travellers from the following places, deemed low- and medium-risk are eligible for shortened quarantine: New Zealand, Australia, Macau, Palau, Fiji, Brunei, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Mongolia, Bhutan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan.
Benjamin Cowling, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong, said Taiwan’s new policy is a “good strategy” for travelers from low-risk areas who are unlikely to be infected. And because “there is more than 50% chance to (test) positive within seven days of infection,” the seven-day quarantine could still be expected to catch most people who arrive with the illness.
Taiwan has waged one of the world’s most successful responses to the coronavirus pandemic, with only 445 cases to date and seven deaths in a country of nearly 24 million. Taiwan was early to ramp up testing and enforce border restrictions, and activated its central epidemic command center in late January. It also set up a robust home quarantine system using geofencing technology, and made sure people had enough masks through a combination of increased production, rationing, and tools like a digital real-time map of mask stocks. In late April, a major municipality even staged a simulated lockdown exercise—despite having recorded consecutive days of zero new cases.
Other places have implemented some form of compulsory quarantine exemptions, too. For travellers from mainland China, Hong Kong exempts certain directors and executives of major companies listed on the city’s stock exchange, as well as certified public accountants conducting auditing work for publicly listed China-based companies. South Korea allows travellers to apply for an “isolation exemption certificate,” provided they’re visiting the country for certain reasons like important business or academic activities. Those travellers will be tested on arrival, and exempted from the 14-day quarantine should they test negative. They will still have to report their health conditions daily to a public health official.
This story has been updated with comments from Benjamin Cowling.