World After early success, Taiwan struggles to exit ‘zero COVID’ policy
Between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping, a discussion on Taiwan
© Copyright 2021, Obs Joe Biden and Xi Jinping spoke for more than three hours but remained with knives from Taiwan, the Chinese president exhorting His American counterpart not to "play with fire" on this hot question . This videoconferencing conversation was held in the evening of Monday in Washington and Tuesday morning in Beijing. It has been "respectful and frank" and "much longer than expected", according to a senior American official.
Taiwan’s swift decision to shut its borders during the early days of the pandemic earned it a low death rate and sense of normalcy that made it the envy of the world.
Nearly two years later, the self-ruled island may be a victim of its early success, some experts say, as health authorities continue to pursue an isolating “zero COVID-19” policy despite the widespread availability of vaccines.
“People in Taiwan have been – let me use a strong word – ‘spoiled’ with the good life and with that there’s a low tolerance on any community outbreak,” Chunhuei Chi, a professor and director at the Center for Global Health at Oregon State University, told Al Jazeera.
China downgrades ties with Lithuania over Taiwan
Lithuania allowed Taiwan to open a de facto embassy in its country, a move which has angered China.Lithuania defended its right to have ties with Taiwan, but said it respected the "One China" policy.
Taiwan’s border restrictions remain some of the strictest in the world, requiring even vaccinated arrivals, including citizens, to undergo 14 days of hotel quarantine – although Hong Kong and mainland China maintain an even stricter regime of 21-day hotel confinement.
In May, authorities closed the border to anyone without citizenship or an existing alien residency certificate – the equivalent of a US green card – creating a headache for foreigners with job offers or school placements.
Although authorities recently began allowing the return of foreign workers, students, academics, and professionals holding a three-year “gold card” visa, the window for entry will close again in mid-December as Taiwan prepares for an influx of citizens from overseas before Lunar New Year on February 1.
Audrey Tang on why tackling misinformation is crucial in pandemic
Taiwan’s Digital Minister tells Al Jazeera that openness is key to ensuring misinformation does not morph into hatred.Tang was already an established programmer when she began working for the government in the wake of 2014’s Taiwan’s Sunflowers Movement, a mass protest that saw students occupy the legislature to protest against a trade deal with China.
In some cases, foreigners already living in Taiwan have been forced to leave indefinitely as their visa requires an exit and re-entry for renewal. In other cases, foreign residents face the prospect of living under an unclear visa amnesty while COVID-19-related rules appear to change on a case-by-case basis.
Daniel Johnson, a British-South African tech entrepreneur who moved to Taiwan a year ago on a working holiday visa, is among those stuck in limbo.
Johnson, who is squarely in line with the kind of expatriate the government says it wants to attract, must apply for 30-day “extensions” each month. Each time he has had to tell officials he does not feel safe returning to the UK and give up his residency certificate and national health insurance card, which most foreigners are eligible to apply for after six months of continuous residence.
Taiwan-China: Tensions are exacerbated, the United States on the who-lived
In a few weeks, China's pressure on Taiwan has increased, to the point of raising an invasion. The United States actively support Taipei and focus on Beijing's wraths. The list of guests has squeezed teeth. On November 24, the Chinese Government accused President Joe Biden for committing an "error" by inviting Taiwan to participate in a virtual summit for the democracy in mid-December, which will bring together more than 100 countries.
“Getting a visa upon arrival was fine enough, the difficult thing was finding out the updates on the different visas, because each one had its own nuances and things had changed,” Johnson told Al Jazeera. “But the documentation didn’t represent that. I kind of assumed it would be multilingual documentation, and there was in some cases, but in a lot of cases it didn’t exist at all or it was old.”
Like many foreigners, Johnson has found that immigration and consular officials do not have the leeway or information to navigate COVID-related changes, often getting different answers to questions depending on the day.
In some cases, the border has been quietly opened to foreign professionals, executives and specialists who successfully applied for an emergency travel exemption through their company, according to industry groups such as the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).
These exceptional visa approvals following special application and case-by-case review have been used across a range of industries for specialists needed on site in Taiwan, as well as by executives on rotation, according to AmCham President Andrew Wylegala, who described the system as “welcome” but not ideal.
Peter Dutton says Chinese missiles can reach every Australian city
After a hawkish speech about the threat posed by China, the Defence Minister was asked whether ADF parents can expect their children will be 'going to Taiwan to fight and perhaps die'.After a hawkish speech about the threat posed by China, the Defence Minister was asked whether ADF parents can expect their children will be 'going to Taiwan to fight and perhaps die'.
“There is concern that it is a little bit ad hoc, just because it may be different from different sector to sector, the timelines may not be completely clear and the listed criteria are somewhat vague, or the process hard to work through,” Wylegala said.
Wylegala said in the long term Taiwan could lose out on business and trade deals to its neighbours that reopened.
Although COVID-19 has affected smaller businesses and sectors like tourism, Taiwan’s economy overall has seen strong growth over the past year led by its semiconductor and tech industry.
“People do not see that this is damaging to our economy as a whole, just business travellers, tourists, people who can afford to travel,” Hong-Jen Chang, who served as director of Taiwan’s CDC from 1999 to 2000, told Al Jazeera.
With a national referendum looming in December and local elections in 2022 for key posts like the mayor of Taipei City, the government is seen to have little incentive to open up as the media and Taiwan’s main opposition political party continue to highlight the dangers of the virus.
“There is a perfect Taiwanese idiom for this: ‘The performers want to end the show, but not the audience,'” said Chi, the Oregon State University professor. “Even if the policymakers are thinking and planning about relaxing and opening up, knowing that the audience, the Taiwanese people, have extremely low tolerance for any outbreak – even a minor outbreak – tends to push them into a more conservative mode.”
'Wide support' for Taiwan policy in Lithuania: lawmaker
A visiting Lithuanian lawmaker said on Monday his country's warming relations with Taiwan has "wide support" from the public amid a row with China for allowing Taipei to open a de facto embassy. "Lithuanian government policy toward Taiwan has a wide support in our society," said Maldeikis when meeting President Tsai. "There are a lot of opportunities for economic and cultural cooperation between our countries," he said."A long-term stable and efficient cooperation is possible precisely because our societies are based on the same principles of democracy, human rights and rule of law.
Even after a major outbreak in May, the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths remain among the lowest in the world at less than 17,000 and 848, respectively, according to the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“What happened in May and June in Taiwan from the international standard is very mild, but was considered very serious in Taiwan,” Chi said. “This public sentiment put undue pressure on policymakers, and on politicians.”
After an initial shortage of vaccines earlier this year due to delays by the international vaccine initiative COVAX, Taiwan has slowly made up for its shortfall through donations from the US, Japan, Lithuania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic and the production of its domestic Medigin vaccine.
Vaccination rates have hit 77 percent for the first dose and about 50 percent for both, according to Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center.
Despite being on track to reach near maximum vaccine coverage within a few weeks, authorities have given little indication that reopening is on the cards anytime soon.
Chang, the former CDC director, said Taiwan would eventually need to open up but officials were in a difficult position as they weighed health concerns against the economy and public opinion.
Authorities could relax some travel restrictions by ramping up testing of arrivals from overseas, he said. But that would involve creating an even more complex system that might be difficult to communicate to the public.
“When you say one case is not tolerated, it’s difficult to design a system,” Chang said. “It’s doable, but the [government] may not have the support of the public. So that’s the problem. Because we are a democracy, right? Not like China.”
Blinken doubles down on China warning over Taiwan: 'Terrible consequences' if Beijing strikes .
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken fired a warning shot at China, saying any move to invade Taiwan would bring "terrible consequences."Blinken spoke at the Reuters Next conference Friday when he shared his thoughts on China and the possible threat to Taiwan as tensions have continued to ramp up over the past few months.