tl;dr series

SERIES: TAIWAN'S PANDEMIC PREVENTION MEASURES

INTRODUCTION

The results of Taiwan's recent pandemic prevention policies are highly successful and globally recognized. Taiwan's experience from fighting the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) pandemic back in 2003 served as a solid basis for their current pandemic-prevention policies. Thus, while continuously devoting efforts on preventing the spread of COVID-19, we should also reflect upon the flaws of current policies to become better prepared for new outbreaks in the future. This series will include six posts on the topic of Taiwan's home isolation policies, examining the social implications and legislative issues involved. We welcome our readers to share any thoughts you may have on the topic at hand!

WHAT ARE TAIWAN’S POLICIES FOR COMBATTING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK? 

Before discussing the specific policies regarding home isolation, let's first put our focus on what the Taiwanese government has done to combat the general spread of COVID-19. In general, Taiwan's COVID-19 prevention policies are characterized by five main principles: transparent and publicized information, proper allocation of resources, timely border regulations, medical and virus-screening technologies and smart pandemic prevention measures in communities. The main focus of these few articles, home isolation, falls under the category of community pandemic prevention measures.

WHY SHOULD WE PAY ATTENTION TO THE HOME ISOLATION POLICIES?

According to the definitions published by the United States Center of Disease Control (USCDC), what the public vaguely refers to as “quarantine” actually has two different forms: "isolation" is specifically for people that actually have a positive diagnosis for the illness, and "quarantine" is for those who are not yet infected but are at risk of getting infected. The "home isolation policy" discussed at hand is for those in quarantine.

THE GLOBAL SCENE UNDER COVID-19 

Different countries have employed various quarantine policies to a different extent, depending on the severity of COVID-19 in their own country; cultural factors are also involved in the type of policies they have chosen to implement. For example, in the past few months, countries such as the US, some European countries (including the UK), Israel, Singapore, and New Zealand have imposed widespread restriction on both travel and the opening of businesses, which in combination is essentially a lockdown.

SIMPLIFYING 

THE

LAW

DISPUTES ON THE LEGAL BASIS OF POLICY RESPONSES TO COVID-19

Back in mid-March, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) announced their policy to prohibit all students and teachers from high schools and below from going abroad, causing a backlash in public opinion. At the time, in Premier Su’s response to the public, he mentioned that the legal basis of this measure lies primarily in the <Communicable Disease Control Act>, and the <Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens> (abbreviated as <Special Act> from here on out), which was established specifically in response to COVID-19. In fact, these two acts are also the legal basis for multiple new counter-pandemic policies recently imposed, including the electronic fencing system used to monitor civilians in home isolation. Here, we’ll take a closer at what the discussions entail from a legal perspective.

Back in mid-March, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) announced their policy to prohibit all students and teachers from high schools and below from going abroad, causing a backlash in public opinion. At the time, in Premier Su’s response to the public, he mentioned that the legal basis of this measure lies primarily in the <Communicable Disease Control Act>, and the <Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens> (abbreviated as <Special Act> from here on out), which was established specifically in response to COVID-19. In fact, these two acts are also the legal basis for multiple new counter-pandemic policies recently imposed, including the electronic fencing system used to monitor civilians in home isolation. Here, we’ll take a closer at what the discussions entail from a legal perspective.

PERSPECTIVES ON THE ISSUE

Back in mid-March, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) announced their policy to prohibit all students and teachers from high schools and below from going abroad, causing a backlash in public opinion. At the time, in Premier Su’s response to the public, he mentioned that the legal basis of this measure lies primarily in the <Communicable Disease Control Act>, and the <Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens> (abbreviated as <Special Act> from here on out), which was established specifically in response to COVID-19. In fact, these two acts are also the legal basis for multiple new counter-pandemic policies recently imposed, including the electronic fencing system used to monitor civilians in home isolation. Here, we’ll take a closer at what the discussions entail from a legal perspective.

However, the one common belief for both viewpoints is that general regulations are a result of the unforeseeable nature of the pandemic and cannot be relied upon as a long term solution. To this day and time, as various policies (border restrictions, mobile monitoring and such) have already been well established, legislators should take on a more proactive role and propose new legislation or amendments to close out existing loopholes. For example, after the SARS incident (will be introduced in the fourth post), Article 48 of the <Communicable Disease Control Act> was amended to list “quarantine” as a specific means under the originally vague “necessary measures.” In conclusion, apart from constantly being one step ahead with pandemic-prevention policies, related legislations must also follow closely in order to build a well-rounded disease prevention system.    

In the first two posts, we introduced Taiwan’s policies to counter the COVID-19 pandemic and we discussed the policies from a legal perspective. Now, let’s focus on inspecting the status quo of Taiwan’s home isolation policies. 

CATEGORIES OF TAIWAN'S HOME ISOLATION POLICIES

Due to the evolving nature of the pandemic, government policies to counter COVID-19 have constantly been under revision, thus creating different versions of isolation policies and various terms such as “home isolation” and “home quarantine.”

According to the newest version of “CECC Measures for Following Up on Persons at Risk of Infection”, isolation policies are classified into three main categories: home isolation, home quarantine, and self-health management. Those who have had contact with confirmed cases undergo home isolation, those returning from foreign countries undergo home quarantine, and those with low risks of infection undergo self-health management. Different regulations are laid out for different policies: for example, people under home isolation and home quarantine are required to stay at home or at designated residences for a certain period of time, during which going outside is strictly forbidden.

HOME QUARANTINE AND BORDER CONTROL

As mentioned earlier, home quarantine is designated for citizens who have had a recent history of travelling overseas. Thus, this policy is closely connected to border control measures. Since mid-March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has imposed entry restrictions for foreigners coming into Taiwan; furthermore, all persons entering Taiwan need to first fill in required forms for the Entry Quarantine System, and subsequently undergo a 14-day home quarantine process. As other countries began to lift restrictions, MOFA has also begun to adjust entry restrictions from June (for example, allowing short-term business travellers to apply a shorter period for home quarantine), in response to the reopening of international business activities and interactions.

THE SITUATION IN OTHER COUNTRIES

Take the UK for example. The UK government announced regulations related to the lockdown back in March. According to the guidelines, civilians are only allowed out of their homes for one hour per day and are required to stay at home for the rest of the day. During early June, the UK government proposed new border control policies which orders all entering passengers to undergo a fourteen day home quarantine period (enactment of such policy came several months later than Taiwan and numerous other countries.) Now, as the situation de-escalates, the UK government has also decided to loosen restrictions on quarantine and travel, in part due to considerations that these policies may violate certain regulations on personal data protection. Starting from July 10th, passengers from designated countries (including Taiwan) can be exempted from serving the 14 day home quarantine.


Due to the nature of COVID-19, policies similar to home isolation are commonly found around the globe; however, we could still observe subtle differences between country to country. Apart from the severity of the pandemic in different countries, are there any other social, cultural, or political factors that may have caused these differences in the policies imposed? We welcome discussions in the comment section!

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