Taiwan to test arrivals from China for COVID from Jan 1

People wait to get a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test, in Taipei
People wait to get a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test in Taipei, Taiwan, May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Ann Wang

TAIPEI, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Taiwan will test arrivals from China for COVID-19 from Jan. 1 in response to a surge in cases there, the government said on Wednesday, joining other countries in stepping up controls on people coming from China.

Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Centre said all passengers arriving on direct flights from China, as well as by boat at two offshore islands, will have to take PCR tests upon arrival.

The government will conduct virus sequencing for those who arrive from China and test positive to track new variants of the coronavirus, it said in a statement.

The measures, which will run until the end of January, do not include those arriving from Hong Kong or Macau, the centre added.

Those who test positive will be able to isolate at home, it said.

The majority of those affected will be Taiwanese citizens who live and work in China and their Chinese spouses and children, as Beijing banned Chinese tourists from visiting the island in 2019.

Many of those Taiwanese who live in China traditionally return to Taiwan for the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls next month.

In an abrupt change of policy, China this month began dismantling the world's strictest COVID regime of lockdowns and extensive testing, putting its battered economy on course for a complete re-opening next year.

The lifting of restrictions, which came after widespread protests against them, means COVID-19 is spreading largely unchecked and likely infecting millions of people a day, according to some international health experts.

After effectively shutting its borders to visitors to control the pandemic and enforcing strict quarantines for all arrivals for almost two years, Taiwan re-opened to the world in October and ended mandatory isolation.

Reporting by Yimou Lee; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Tom Hogue and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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