Taiwan will fully reopen its borders by ending its mandatory Covid quarantine for arrivals next month, the government said on Thursday.
The island has kept its borders largely closed and implemented strict quarantine rules during the coronavirus pandemic, keeping the number of infections low at the expense of international exclusion.
The government began moving away from its zero-covid strategy in April towards accepting endemism once the population was properly vaccinated.
From Oct. 13, authorities will abolish the quarantine and ask arrivals for seven days to self-monitor, cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said on Thursday Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang.
Visitors are currently required to undergo a mandatory three-day hotel quarantine, followed by four days of self-checking, during which they are expected to avoid crowded places.
Visa-free travel for visitors from certain countries will resume from September 29, and the ban on tour groups will be lifted in October, Lo added.
The new measures will “enable the public to fully return to normal life, open Taiwan’s door to welcome tourists and all industries to be more active and prosperous,” he said.
But some tourism industry experts said Taiwan would still struggle to compete for visitors with other destinations in the region because of its self-checking rules.
“The whole world except China and Taiwan has opened up, and Taiwan has already been too slow and too late,” said Robert Kao, a tourism management and operations expert at Tainan University of Technology.
He described the seven days of self-monitoring without quarantine as “pointless”, adding that “tourists would choose countries like Japan or South Korea where there are no such restrictions”.
Taiwan saw nearly six million domestic coronavirus infections this year, although more than 99 percent of those infected had mild or no symptoms, with a death rate of 0.16 percent, according to official data.
The Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan’s ministry of Chinese affairs, also announced on Thursday that residents of China, Hong Kong and Macau will be able to apply for admission from September 29 to visit relatives, attend funerals or handle inheritances.
Crew members and technicians from Chinese airlines and shipping companies are also eligible.
Taiwan has imposed stricter immigration restrictions on residents of China and the two Chinese territories, amid ongoing political tensions with Beijing since the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war.