After early success, Taiwan struggles to exit ‘zero COVID’ policy | Coronavirus pandemic News

Taiwan’s zealous idea of ​​closing its borders in the early days of the epidemic found a lower risk of death and a healthy lifestyle that made the world jealous.

Nearly two years later, the independent island could be a very successful one, some experts say, while health officials continue to adhere to the “zero COVID-19” isolation despite the vaccine.

“People in Taiwan have been – let me use strong words – ‘spoiled’ by a healthy lifestyle and that there is little tolerance for any group activity,” said Chunhuei Chi, a professor and executive at the Center for Global Health in Oregon State. University, told Al Jazeera.

Taiwan’s border restrictions remain one of the most difficult in the world, requiring even vaccineers, including citizens, to be isolated for 14 days – although Hong Kong and China maintain a strict 21-day prison sentence.

In May, the authorities closed the border on anyone who did not have a citizenship or a valid identity card – similar to a US green card – making headlines for visitors to work or school.

Although government officials have recently begun to allow foreign workers, students, students, and professionals with a three-year “gold” visa, the entry window will close again in December as Taiwan prepares for the influx of foreign nationals. Lunar New Year on February 1st.

In some cases, tourists already living in Taiwan are forced to leave permanently because their visa requires exit and re-entry to renew. In some cases, expatriates face the prospect of living under an unfamiliar visa waiver as the rules regarding COVID-19 appear to change from time to time.

Taiwan has cited one of the lowest levels of COVID and the highest risk of death in the world after an epidemic [File: Ann Wang/Reuters]

Daniel Johnson, a British-South African professional businessman who relocated to Taiwan last year on a working visa, is one of those who has remained steadfast.

Johnson, who is closely associated with whom the government wants to attract, should apply for a 30-day “extension” each month. He always had to tell the authorities that he was uncomfortable returning to the UK and leaving his residency certificate and health insurance card, which most visitors had to apply for after six months of continuous residency.

“Getting a visa when it was available was enough, the challenge was to get different visa changes, because everyone had their own nuances and things changed,” Johnson told Al Jazeera. “But the record does not represent that. I just thought it could be written in many languages, and sometimes it did, but often it never existed or it was a thing of the past. “

Like many foreign visitors, Johnson has found that immigration officials and ambassadors and ambassadors do not have the opportunity or experience to manage changes related to COVID, often finding a variety of answers to questions depending on the day.

In some cases, the border was secretly opened to foreign experts, supervisors and professionals who asked for an invoice to be issued suddenly through their company, according to groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).

The special approvals for these visas following the special use and re-examination of the case have been used in various industries for professionals in need of accommodation in Taiwan, as well as by the exchange managers, according to AmCham President Andrew Wylegala, who described the process as. “Welcome” but not good.

“There is a concern that it is a little more obvious, because it may be different for different stages, the timing may not be clear and the content is ambiguous, or a motivating factor,” Wylegala said. he said.

Wylegala said over time Taiwan could lose trade and commerce to its reopened neighbors.

‘Conservative mode’

Although COVID-19 has affected small businesses and sectors such as tourism, Taiwan’s economy as a whole has seen significant growth over the past year under the guidance of its technical and technical industries.

“People don’t see it as a waste of our resources, only business travelers, tourists, people who can afford to travel,” Hong-Jen Chang, director of Taiwan’s CDC from 1999 to 2000, told Al Jazeera. .

With the upcoming national referendum in December and local elections in 2022 on key positions such as the mayor of Taipei, the government seems unwilling to open up as journalists and the main opposition party in Taiwan continue to cover the threat of the virus. .

“There is a clear statement from Taiwan: ‘Players want to stop the show, but not the audience,” said Chi, an Oregon State University professor. “Even if the decision-makers think and prepare for a break and openness, knowing that the audience, the people of Taiwan, are slow to respond to any outburst – even a small explosion – makes them very cautious.”

Even after a a major explosion in May, the incidence of COVID-19 cases and deaths is still the lowest in the world below 17,000 and 848, respectively, according to the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“What happened in May and June in Taiwan from abroad is very small, but it seemed to be very difficult in Taiwan,” Chi said. “These collective ideas are forcing policy makers, as well as politicians.”

After a shortfall of vaccines earlier this year due to delays in the global COVAX vaccine, Taiwan has been slow. caused his shortage through donations from the US, Japan, Lithuania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic as well as developing its own Medigin vaccine.

Vaccination rates reached 77 percent at baseline and about 50 percent for both, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center in Taiwan.

Although they are on their way to getting close to the vaccine in a few weeks, the authorities have not provided any indication that the reopening is on the cards soon.

Chang, a former CDC chief, said Taiwan should open up but officials are in trouble because they are monitoring the health crisis against the economy and public opinion.

Officials may reduce other travel restrictions by increasing the efforts of immigrants, he said. But this can include creating a more complex system that can be difficult to communicate with.

“When you say one case is not allowed, it becomes difficult to make a plan,” Chang said. “It is possible, but [government] they cannot have public assistance. Then the problem is. Because we are a democracy, aren’t we? Not like China. ”

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