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Stricter screening and quarantines boost coronavirus containment

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Following a presentation at Thursday's weekly Cabinet meeting by the Ministry of Health and Welfare on the latest developments in the novel coronavirus outbreak in Taiwan, Premier Su Tseng-chang directed that the Sports Administration closely follow rule changes at global sporting associations to ensure that Taiwan's athletes and their participation qualifications will not be affected by the widespread rescheduling of international sporting competitions.

Given the growing severity of the outbreak globally, a steady stream of Taiwanese students and travelers returning from abroad have significantly raised the number of imported COVID-19 cases. The premier indicated that beginning on March 19, the borders closed to all foreign travelers (with exceptions for residence card holders, those with diplomatic or business obligations, and other non-nationals with special permission), and all arrivals regardless of nationality are subject to 14 days of home quarantine. Premier Su credited these stricter measures for the greater effectiveness of containment.

There are over 40,000 people now under home quarantine, emphasized the premier, and he again reminded the public that fighting the outbreak is a task shared by the people and government alike. Home quarantine is a critical tool not only in protecting the health of individuals and the public as a whole, but also in easing the burden on society.

Thanks to the government's new online face mask purchasing system, consumers who placed orders during the first round can pick up their masks from convenience stores nationwide starting today, Premier Su said. This represents a considerable convenience for office workers and students who will no longer have to line up to buy masks in person. The premier also predicted that production capacity will ramp up from the current pace of 12.6 million masks per day to 13.5 million by early April. Even now the government is planning out increases in the number of masks allowed per order, further easing restrictions, and introducing a wider array of distribution options.

To provide assistance to people and businesses impacted by the outbreak, the Executive Yuan worked with the Legislature to pass a special budget of NT$60 billion (US$1.97 billion) to fund relief and economic stimulus measures, said Premier Su. Additional aid funds were announced on March 24, increasing the total amount to NT$100 billion (US$3.3 billion). Measures include an extended deadline for the payment of income tax, interest rate cuts on loans offered by government banks, monthly living subsidies of NT$1,500 (US$49) for the disadvantaged, and discounted water and power bills for affected businesses.

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