Taiwan to suspend most visa applications from Hong Kong, Macau

TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan’s government said on Thursday it would suspend most visa applications from Hong Kong and Macau residents starting from Friday, as part of efforts to control the spread of the new coronavirus.

Taiwan has gradually been restricting overseas and especially Chinese visitors since the virus outbreak began picking up speed, including this week suspending the entry of all Chinese citizens who live in mainland China.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said the new restrictions on Hong Kong and Macau residents were due to the infection rate continuing to climb there.

“The epidemic situation is getting more and more serious in Hong Kong,” the council’s deputy head, Chiu Chui-cheng, told a news conference in Taipei. “This is a professional decision made by our (disease) control centre.”

Hong Kong and Macau residents who have already obtained Taiwan visas will have to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving in Taiwan, the council added.

Hong Kong and Macau residents who have an urgent need to come to Taiwan will have to apply for visas outside the island and prove they have not been to mainland China for a 14-day period, it said.

Taiwan has only reported 13 cases, compared with more than 28,000 in China. Hong Kong has reported 22 cases, two of them critical, and Macau 10. Hong Kong saw its first death from the virus on Tuesday.

Reporting by Yimou Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Alex Richardson