Taiwan has announced COVID-19 testing requirements for travellers arriving from China will end on February 7th. Victor Wang, head of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center, made the announcement at a press conference on January 31st, according to the Central News Agency in Taipei.
Wang stated that the daily rate of Chinese travellers testing positive upon arrival has fallen from 25% to 2% and no new variants have been detected. From January 1st onwards, travellers arriving from China via direct flights or arriving by boat from offshore islands had been required to take a PCR test upon arrival while travellers from Hong Kong and Macau had been required to test negative 48 hours before their flight.
The topic rapidly garnered the attention of users on Weibo, China’s top microblogging site. Most netizens expressed a sense of apathy over the announcement, with some saying that they wanted to wait until the planned high-speed rail connecting Beijing and Taipei is built before visiting the island. Many others stated explicitly that they had no interest in going to Taiwan before it is “liberated”, referring to the long-cherished goal of re-claiming Taiwan as a province of the People’s Republic of China under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.
Similarly to China, the Taiwanese government employed a zero-COVID approach throughout much of the pandemic and was considered a bastion of effective epidemic control as a democratic country with an extremely low number of COVID-related deaths. As the Omicron variant swept the world in 2022, Taiwan switched to a coexistence model, eventually lifting the strict quarantine requirements for all travellers in October 2022.
Owing in large part to strict COVID regulations on both sides of the strait, Taiwan has lost popularity as a destination for Chinese tourists in recent years. This perhaps only consolidated an emerging trend since China had introduced limits on travel to Taiwan back in 2019 – first aimed at solo travellers and then at tour groups heading to the island. The move was intended to express China’s disapproval over the prospective re-election of Tsai Ing-Wen, the relatively pro-independence and anti-China candidate, as president in 2020.
Taiwan is not the only country set to open its doors back to Chinese travellers. South Korea is due to make a similar announcement soon, according to a report from the South China Morning Post. South Korea introduced testing requirements for Chinese travellers on December 30th, which was quickly met with retaliation from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Prime Minister Han Duck-soo stated that visa restrictions may be lifted earlier than scheduled depending on the number of COVID cases in China over the coming days and weeks.