13 Mar 2020 Taiwan Legal Update: Updates on COVID-19
Taiwan Legal Update: Updates on COVID-19
New Travel Alerts
Hot topic: Taiwan adopts alert notices for eight European countries and two Middle Eastern countries, alongside level one watch notices for 16 European states.
The Central Epidemic Command Centre has issued a new set of travel advisories within the three step notices for international travel which includes level 1 “watch”, level 2 “alert” and level 3 “warning”.
New measures have come as a response to the Europe Centre for disease Prevention and Control which determined earlier this week that there is an intermediate-to-high risk of COVID-19 becoming widespread and of clusters appearing in the European Union and the UK over the next few weeks.
The CECC already has a level three warning travel notice for Italy which advises avoiding all non-essential travel to listed destinations, as well as a ban or mandatory quarantine on all individuals who have travelled from listed countries within the last 14 days – each country being determined separately whether quarantine is suitable or an outright ban is required. Italy joins the list that already includes China, Hong Kong, Korea, Macao, and Iran.
A level 2 alert translates to visitors to the areas are advised to take enhanced precautionary measures and travellers returning to Taiwan from any of the countries listed having to observe a 14-day period of self-health management. The countries now at level 2 are listed as being France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Furthermore, a level 1 watch requirement, which is a recommendation to take usual precautionary measures and ensure a 14-day period of self-health management upon return to Taiwan, has been issued for the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Thailand, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, and Slovenia
Mask Rationing Website Online
On the 12th of March, the Government website for pre-ordering protective surgical masks went online. This follows a rush to gain access to masks that has continued since the outbreak of the virus known as COVID-19. After a significant increase in mask production, pushed by government funding, the number of masks in circulation in the market is currently stable, reaching 9.2 million produced per day which is to rise to 13 million by April. However, distribution has remained an issue.
The Central Epidemic Command Centre announced the “Real-name Mask System” on their Facebook social media page earlier this week. The website is said to be active until next week as part of a trial and will allow the rationed ‘3-per-person’ purchase to be delivered to the individuals choice of convenience store.
This is projected to see roughly 7 million masks be delivered, mostly to customers who are unable to stand in line at pharmacies for long periods of time. However, the Economic Affairs Vice Minister Wang Mei-Hua highlighted that online sales would not reduce supplies in pharmacies.
The measure has been seen as an attempt to reduce the complexity that has been heightened in the purchasing of masks. One measure, that was brought out early in the outbreak, was based on whether the number on an individual’s National Health Insurance (NHI) card ended with an odd number or an even number, with different days for purchasing masks being allocated to each. The website, however, does not have such restrictions placed upon purchases.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare also highlighted that if the volume of pre-orders became too great, then masks would be allocated through a lottery system, thereby ensuring that the website was not overloaded by a panic-buy.
However, when the website went online, an overflow of users numbering 80,000 caused it to crash within the first few minutes. As reported by Taiwan News, within the first hour, 100,000 had accessed the webpage but only 20,000 had been able to pre-order masks. Despite this, as of Friday morning, nearly 500,000 people had successfully pre-ordered masks.
However, some issues have emerged for foreigners. For example, the instructions on the website have been in Chinese and the Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Ho Chi-Kung has said that foreigners must use their NHI cards as the only method of securing an order for masks. This means that many foreign employed must receive their NHI cards from their employers, if they have not already received one, as other forms of identification such as the Alien Resident Card (ARC) are not accepted.
Furthermore, foreign purchasers must use a card reader to register their NHI card into the system which, by itself, requires downloaded software such as a plugin. The ARC is then to be used to fill in personal information before any orders can be placed. In addition, payment can only be done through ATM transfer and use of a Taiwanese phone number is required in order to receive the delivery number via text message.
When picking up the masks from the convenience store, there is a next set of hurdles where the individual must enter the delivery number and ID card number into a multi-function kiosk, print out the receipt and hand that receipt to the store clerk in order to finally receive the purchased masks.
However, these difficulties may be worth the technicalities as it will allow individuals to avoid waiting in daily queues for surgical masks, which have grown substantially, and are unlikely to reduce in size at any point in the near future.
Central Epidemic Command Centre Press Release
Press Reports on governmental website