TAIPEI - Taiwan has announced an easing of restrictions for those who have come in direct contact with people with positive Covid-19 results, drastically cutting the number of home isolation days from 10 to three and shaving the subsequent monitoring period from a week to four days.
The island recorded 5,108 locally transmitted and 113 imported cases on Monday (April 25), the 11th consecutive day with more than a thousand domestic cases reported.
The current outbreak is the worst in Taiwan since the pandemic began in early 2020.
Despite the mounting cases, the government has shifted its policy to "coexist with the virus", a tagline now repeated by government officials, including President Tsai Ing-wen and Premier Su Tseng-chang, as well as in local media.
The Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC), which has overseen the fight against Covid-19, said at the beginning of this month that it would be focusing medical and other resources on patients with severe symptoms.
It said those who were asymptomatic or with mild symptoms and close contacts should self-isolate at home.
Before Monday's announcement, the self-isolation period was 10 days, with an additional week of self health monitoring during which one should stay away from crowded public spaces, including restaurants.
The new so-called "3+4 policy" applies only to those exposed to Covid-19 patients in Taiwan. It does not apply to travellers from overseas who will still have to be in quarantine for 10 days.
Under the new policy, at the end of three days of isolation, an individual should take an antigen rapid test and can leave isolation only if the result is negative. But they should continue to stay away from most public areas for another four days.
The new policy will also be tailored to meet each city and county's demands.
Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je announced on Monday that the city would not be asking front-line workers exposed to Covid-19 patients to undergo mandatory quarantine or isolation, saying that this would make it difficult to deal with the current outbreak.
Instead, they will be taking six rapid tests over the course of 10 days after first testing positive.
As at Monday, Taiwan has seen 61,686 Covid-19 cases and 856 deaths since the pandemic began in January 2020.
According to data from the CECC, more than half of the confirmed cases were logged in the first four months of this year alone, with 99.64 per cent of them being asymptomatic or of those with mild symptoms.
Nine patients were classified as severe cases, with five currently in treatment. The remaining four died.
Nearly 79.78 per cent of the population have received two vaccine doses, with about 57.84 per cent receiving the booster shot.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung has announced that the government intends to start rationing rapid testing kits from next month.
They have been in short supply since domestic cases began surging at the beginning of this month.
"(We will be) releasing around 50 million rapid test kits for 10 million people," the minister said on Sunday.
Correction note: An earlier version of this story stated that Taiwan announced an easing of restrictions for those who tested positive for Covid-19. This has been corrected. We are sorry for the error.