At the Cabinet's weekly meeting Thursday, Premier Su Tseng-chang received a Ministry of Health and Welfare briefing on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and related public health measures. The government will shift towards an easing of restrictions, the premier said, to establish a new model where economic growth can coexist with COVID-19 prevention, in accordance with Taiwan's blooming economic development and the success of its prevention measures thus far.
Premier Su noted that, as the pandemic continues into its third year, many international authorities have rated Taiwan's COVID-19 response as the best in the world. For example, in the newest Nikkei COVID-19 Recovery Index published February 4 by Nikkei Asia, Taiwan was not only ranked No. 1 globally, it was furthermore the only country to achieve a total score over 80 points—not an easy feat.
Nevertheless, the premier said, the global pandemic situation remains severe. In particular, daily COVID-19 cases in neighboring countries continue to rise. However, despite its rapid spread, the new Omicron variant exhibits milder symptoms, and Taiwan has built up over two years of experience and confidence defending against COVID-19. Over two weeks have passed since the nine-day Lunar New Year holiday, and daily domestic cases have not only fallen, but also stayed below 20 cases for a consecutive 13 days, even falling below 10 cases on some days.
The premier further pointed out that Taiwan's medicine supplies are fully stocked, its health care capacity sufficient, and it is the first country in Asia to prepare two types of oral antiviral medicine. Among Taiwan's population, 83% have received at least one dose of vaccine, 76% have received two doses, and almost 40% have received a booster shot. Furthermore, the World Health Organization's newest interim guidance on COVID-19 suggests that the former 14-day quarantine period can be shortened; many countries worldwide are also loosening their restrictions. Taiwan's government must also flexibly adjust its public health strategy to balance disease prevention, the economy and people's livelihoods.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs on Wednesday announced that in January, the wholesale sector raked in revenue of NT$1.1131 trillion (US$40.2 billion), the second highest ever in a single month and marking 15 consecutive months of positive growth. The retail sector, meanwhile, set a record for highest revenue earned in a single month, with NT$392.2 billion (US$14.2 billion) and representing five straight months of growth. The food and drink industry posted revenue of NT$76.2 billion (US$2.8 billion), the second highest figure historically for the month of January and marking four consecutive months of growth. This clearly indicates that Taiwan's economy is thriving and growing fast, the premier said. In light of this, Taiwan will, under the careful and expert guidance of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), create a new model where economic growth can coexist with COVID prevention.
The CECC has recommended that starting March 7, the quarantine period for arrivals to Taiwan will be shortened from 14 days to 10, and business travelers will be allowed to enter Taiwan under certain conditions. If we prepare well for these changes, we can move forward with greater peace of mind and be ready to handle the opening of Taiwan's borders, Premier Su said.