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Taiwan: Fall-Winter COVID-19 Prevention Program Implemented, Requiring Masks in High-Risk Places

(Jan. 6, 2021) On December 2, 2020, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that a Fall-Winter COVID-19 Prevention Program had been implemented on December 1. The program requires members of the public to wear masks in a wide range of places where the risks of catching and transmitting the coronavirus are deemed high. Taiwan has not recorded any locally acquired COVID-19 case since April 12.

The eight categories of high-risk places where masks are required are as follows:

  • healthcare facilities (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes)
  • public transportation (e.g., high-speed rail, city buses, taxis)
  • places where goods and services are consumed (including hotels, shopping malls, supermarkets, and pharmacies, but not restaurants)
  • educational facilities (including libraries and senior learning centers, but not schools and daycares)
  • sports and exhibition venues (e.g., movie theaters, gyms, museums, indoor swimming pools)
  • leisure and entertainment venues (e.g., cruises, bars)
  • places of worship (e.g., temples, shrines, churches, funeral homes)
  • offices and business venues (e.g., banks, post offices)

In Taiwan, those who refuse to wear a mask after being advised to do so by the personnel of these places are punishable by a fine of $3,000–15,000 new Taiwan dollars (about US$107–$533), according to article 70 of the Communicable Disease Control Act.

The CECC had merely advised the public to wear masks in the eight categories of crowded and confined places before the new program was implemented. Mask-wearing has now been made mandatory in these places to improve the level of public compliance because “[i]n the upcoming winter, as the COVID-19 pandemic would overlap with [the] peaks of a number of respiratory infectious diseases, the healthcare system will be faced with [the] extra load and the stress of resource allocation,” as explained by the Q&A of the new rules. The Q&A further emphasizes that masks provide protection against not only COVID-19 but also other diseases spread through droplet transmission or airborne transmission.

Other key measures under Taiwan’s Fall-Winter COVID-19 Prevention Program include the requirement that all passengers entering or transiting through Taiwan present a nucleic acid test report issued within three working days before boarding and that healthcare institutions adopt enhanced infection control and reporting of suspected cases in their facilities.