Whether Taiwan has adequate medical capacity to handle an increase in COVID-19 cases remains key to deciding when to reopen the nation’s borders to tourists, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) said yesterday.
“We have made many suggestions to the Central Epidemic Command Center, including following Japan’s example of allowing the entry of small tour groups first. However, the government’s biggest concern now is whether our medical capacity is adequate to cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases,” he said in response to media queries on the sidelines of a news conference in Taipei.
The number of visitors to Taiwan would increase if the quarantine period were to be further shortened, Wang said.
Photo: CNA
However, it is necessary to consider whether the nation has enough healthcare personnel to administer polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at airports or take care of hospitalized COVID-19 patients, he said.
Taiwan has allowed the entry of business travelers, Wang said, adding that the government would consider reopening borders to tourists once the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak passes its plateau phase.
The Tourism Bureau has stipulated disease prevention guidelines for tour groups, which could still require tourists to take PCR tests 48 hours prior to boarding their flights, Wang said, adding that members of tour groups must enter and leave the nation as a group.
Photo: CNA
Some travel agencies said the ministry should offer them relief funds rather than stimulus funds to sustain them until the borders reopen.
However, Wang said that the world is moving toward reopening borders and returning to normal life.
“I will meet with travel agency representatives on Wednesday [tomorrow] and talk about details of the stimulus funding plan,” he said. “Even though they are offering domestic tours, they are preparing themselves for the borders to reopen.”
Asked if Taiwan would offer incentives to attract international tourists now that some Asian nations have fully reopened their borders, Wang said the ministry is focusing on stimulating domestic tourism for now.
In other news, the Railway Bureau is considering changing the criteria for recruiting railway inspectors, Wang said.
The ministry introduced the railway inspector position after the derailment of a Taroko Express train last year killed 49 people and injured 213. Although the Railway Bureau has set a goal of recruiting 42 railway inspectors, it has so far recruited only four.
“We have requested the Directorate-General of Personnel Administration to raise the wages of railway inspectors, but the request was denied,” Wang said. “I have asked the Railway Bureau to consider changing the criteria for job application and we will continue hiring railway inspectors.”
The bureau is hiring assistant inspectors, senior inspectors and chief inspectors, which requires four years, six years and 10 years of work experience respectively.
“If we can waive or reduce the four-year criteria a bit, perhaps we can attract young people who might not be experienced, but are willing to undergo strict training,” he said.
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