Soldiers wearing masks as part of the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For two years, the island has been seen as a fortress against COVID, a global model for managing the pandemic. But as the chaotic lockdowns in Shanghai and Beijing, China drew attention, Taiwan moved to gradually end its own strict policy.
For the first time in the pandemic, nearly 100,000 new cases per day were recorded in May on the island of 24 million inhabitants. A predictable wave that has been surging since the beginning of April, but an acceptable situation for the government resolved to abandon the confinements and to relax certain physical distancing measures.
We are fighting the pandemic while respecting democracy and human rights, said Taiwan Minister of Health and Social Welfare Chen Shih-chung. China has a relatively tough approach. It prioritizes control of the pandemic more than the rights of its citizens.
Until this spring, Taiwan and China were the last two bastions of the zero COVID policy. Professor at the National Taiwan University College of Public Health, Chen Hsiu-Hsi, believes the island was able to adapt its strategy by learning from the successes and failures of reopenings in Europe, America and also elsewhere in Asia.
We have changed our fight against COVID, from a pandemic approach to an endemic approach, he explains. This allows us to better agree with what is done in the rest of the world. If the government had not abandoned its zero COVID policy, it would not have been possible to return to normal life.
Professor Chen Hsiu-Hsi believes that even China has adapted its strategy since the very strict two-month confinement in Shanghai. The zero COVID policy remains in place and could be for another five years in China, according to a post from an official this week. The remarks were briefly posted online and later modified.
They seem to have found that containments are no longer useful against Omicron and its short period of transmission, he clarifies.
If Taiwan has abandoned its zero COVID policy, the reopening is not complete. Borders remain closed to visitors, except for business people and others who obtain a waiver from the Taiwan Center for Infectious Diseases.
Taoyuan International Airport
Anyone arriving on the island must undergo strict three-day isolation in a quarantine hotel and then monitor their symptoms for four days by avoiding public places. All non-essential outings are discouraged at this time.
We have relaxed the rules for those arriving at the borders, says Taiwan's Minister of Health and Welfare, Chen Shih-chung. But that is not enough. The gradual reopening of borders is inevitable. Several countries are reopening their borders.
Despite the absence of tourists and the mistrust of part of the population, normal life is slowly resuming in Taiwan despite the relaxation of sanitary measures.
Taxi driver Chen Yu-Chi roams the streets of Taipei, but with half as many customers as two years ago. It is inevitable, everyone who comes on board tells him about the pandemic and the developments, whether students or business people.
Me and my whole family had COVID last month, he says. I know several people who have also been infected. We must remain cautious, because the transmission rate remains high.
Caution and certain measures will remain in place in the longer term. The Minister of Health has no intention of lifting the mask-wearing requirement in Taiwan. It is mandatory inside and outside even today.
Taiwan Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung
We believe that everyone everyone has gotten used to wearing the mask, even if it's embarrassing, says Taiwan's Minister of Health and Welfare, Chen Shih-chung. It helps us fight against COVID, but also against other respiratory diseases. Our data proves it. In the future, when social distancing is not possible, mask wearing will remain in place.