Coronavirus Update: Imported Cases, Mask Rules Reapplied, US Health Secretary to Visit

Taiwan’s coronavirus cases sit at 477 (443 recovered, 27 active, 7 dead), after more imported cases arrive in the country. The latest, announced yesterday (August 6), was a man returning from South Africa who became infected after being on the same flight as two infected patients. 

There has also been some concern over travelers from Taiwan testing positive upon arriving in other countries, with a Japanese engineer testing positive upon returning home on August 1 and a Taiwanese woman who recently tested positive after breaking quarantine in Hong Kong. As reported by Focus Taiwan: “the woman, in her 50s, returned to Taiwan from abroad on June 20 and left on July 27 for Hong Kong, where she tested negative on arrival. After she broke quarantine, however, she was tested again on August 2 and found to be positive.” It is yet unclear whether the woman is asymptomatic or not. 

Last weekend also saw a scare when it was announced that a Belgian man, who was potentially infected back home in March, but still had the infection in his system, entered Taiwan in May and tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies last week. So far, 461 out of 462 people who came into contact with him have tested negative, with 427 testing negative for antibodies. The remaining tests are awaiting results.

As a result of the surge in imported cases and these recent complications, mask rules are back to being stricter again. It is compulsory to mask-up on the MRT, regardless of social distancing, and places like schools and public buildings such as Taipei City Hall also require visitors to wear masks. Also, “events hosting more than 100 people indoors or 500 outdoors cannot proceed without approval from the Department of Information and Tourism and the Department of Health,” reported Taiwan News. Basically, things are back to how they were a few months ago. 

Passengers on the MRT or buses are required to wear masks again after imported cases increased of late (Image source: Anshu A)

Finally, in perhaps the biggest news of late, it has been confirmed that United States Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar will arrive in Taiwan on Sunday for an official visit. One part of the trip that has raised a few eyebrows is that he and his delegation will not be required to quarantine. As reported by Focus Taiwan: “he [Azar] and his delegation will not be required to go into quarantine once they test negative for the COVID-19 coronavirus, Taiwan government officials said Thursday.” 

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar is going to visit Taiwan from this Sunday, with no quarantine enforced. (Image source: The White House flickr site)

The delegation will stick to a strict itinerary and stay together, with all members required to wear masks when meeting with others in line with Taiwan’s COVID-19 prevention guidelines, said CECC spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang at the official press conference yesterday.