Q1: Why does Taiwan introduce the Fall-Winter COVID-19 Prevention Program when the situation has been under control?
A: Indeed, our last locally-acquired COVID-19 case was recorded on April 12. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the winter, the pandemic has been growing around the world. As the numbers of newly-reported cases per day have repeatedly reached new highs in many countries, Taiwan has also recorded an increasing number of imported cases. Therefore, in view of the alarming level of public compliance with the COVID-secure ways of living advocated under the New Lifestyle for Epidemic Prevention movement, the CECC decided to roll out the winter program with a number of measures designed to improve our preparedness for co-circulation of influenza and COVID-19 in the winter months. The program includes reinforced border quarantine procedures, increased community controls, and enhanced detection of suspected COVID-19 cases so that a response may be made promptly.
Q2: When did the winter program begin? What are the specific measures?
A: December 1, 2020. The key measures are as follows:
1. All passengers entering or transiting through Taiwan must present a COVID-19 nucleic acid test report issued within three (working) days before boarding;
2. Masks are required in places with high risks of infection and transmission;
3. Infection control and reporting of suspected cases for testing are enhanced in healthcare facilities.
Q3: Why masks are required when there is no local outbreak in Taiwan?
A：After Taiwan relaxed the control measures on June 7, the public has been urged to observe the New Lifestyle for Epidemic Prevention, yet the level of compliance has not been ideal. On August 5, the public was strongly advised to wear masks in eight types of crowded and confined places where social distancing is not easy to maintain or close contact with random people is highly likely.
In the upcoming winter, as the COVID-19 pandemic would overlap with peaks of a number of respiratory infectious diseases, the healthcare system will be faced with extra load and the stress of resource allocation. In order to improve the level of public compliance with the mandatory mask-wearing rule in the eight types of public venues, which can thereby reduce the spread of respiratory infectious diseases and reserve medical resources, masks are made mandatory in indoor places at a high risk of COVID-19 spread, i.e. where social distancing is not easy to maintain or close contact with random people is possible.
Q4： Where are masks required?
A：Masks are required in eight types of places with high risks of infection and transmission (where social distancing is not easy to maintain or close contact with random people is possible, thus at a high risk of COVID-19 spread), including "healthcare facilities, public transportation, places of consumption, educational facilities, sports and exhibition venues, leisure and entertainment venues, places of worship places, offices and business venues." Masks provide protection against not only COVID-19 but also other droplets and airborne diseases.
Q4-1： Do educational facilities include schools?
A：In view of the fact that the people visiting classrooms in schools, kindergartens, after-school child care, and cram schools are often the same, it is not mandatory for them to wear a mask in the aforementioned venues. The Ministry of Education will supervise and enforce the implementation of various disease prevention measures at these venues according to the relevant guidance formulated by the Central Epidemic Command Center.
Q4-2：As it is mandatory to wear a mask when visiting exhibition and sports venues, are performing artists and athletes also required to wear a mask?
A：The people who are required to wear a mask are primarily audience and spectators at the events. The event organizers should manage and separate the flow of performing artists/athletes from the flow of audience/spectators and should ensure audience/spectators are practicing social distancing from the stage. In addition, performing artists and athletes should wear a mask before and after the event. For special quarantine programs approved by the CECC, relevant regulations outlined in such a program should be followed closely.
Q4-3：Are inpatients in healthcare facilities, residents in nursing facilities, and infants and children in child care centers required to wear a mask?
A：The people who are required to wear a mask when visiting the these venues are those who seek medical attention, accompany a patient to seek medical attention, visit a patient/resident at healthcare or nursing facilities, send or pick up infants and children to and at day care, and run errands. However, if such venues have already required inpatients, residents, and infants and children at the facilities to wear a mask throughout their stay or comply with other disease prevention measures, they should follow the regulations accordingly.
Q4-4：Are people working at the 8 types of high-risk venues required to wear a mask?
A：The people who are required to wear a mask are primarily those who visit high-risk venues. People who work at these venues might be required to wear a mask depending on the nature of their job. For staff members such as salespeople at the market or the store that might come into close contact with random people, guides in exhibition and performance venues, and those who receive customers in person are recommended to wear a mask when they work. On the other hand, for staff members who work in the back office, they only need to follow the measures promoted under the New Lifestyle for Epidemic Prevention movement. However, if venues have already required staff members to wear a mask during work hours in order to comply with the requirements of infection control such as healthcare facilities, then the staff members should follow relevant regulations accordingly.
Q5-1：What should I do if I want to consume food and beverages at one of the venues that require mandatory mask-wearing?
A：If the venue permits consumption of food and beverages, under the circumstance where social distancing is maintained (1.5 m indoors and 1m outdoors) or a physical barrier such as a partition is set up, you are allowed to temporarily remove your mask to consume food and beverages and are required to put the mask back on immediately after you are done. If the venue does not permit consumption of food and beverages, please follow the rule and wear your mask throughout your stay at the venue.
In addition, even though it is not mandatory to wear a mask at venues like restaurants, business owners and customers should still adhere to the measures promoted under the New Lifestyle for Epidemic Prevention movement in order to lower the risk of transmission. Business owners should also adopt measures that ensure social distancing at the restaurant among their customers, including spacing out tables and providing partitions. On top of that, business owners should also implement other disease prevention measures such as limiting the number of diners per table, keeping a record of contact information of customers, temperature measurement, and hand disinfection. Diners are strongly advised to avoid conversations when having meals and put on their mask when talking or leaving their seats to get food or use the bathroom.
Q5-2：What should I do if I am at a venue such as airplane, high-speed rail, and train where it is difficult to practice social distancing and there is no partitions set up and I still want to consume food and beverages?
A：On public transport such as train, airplane, or ship where consumption of food and beverages is permitted, under the circumstance where social distancing is maintained (1.5 m indoors and 1m outdoors) or a physical barrier such as a partition is set up, you are allowed to temporarily remove your mask to consume food and beverages, avoid conversations when having meals, and are required to put the mask back on immediately after you are done.
Q6：Do I need to wear a mask at an outdoor venue where it is relatively empty, spacious, and well-ventilated?
A：Although it is not one of the 8 types of venues with high risks of infection and transmission, you are still advised to follow the measures under the New Lifestyle for Epidemic Prevention movement, voluntarily wear a mask, and comply with the disease prevention measures implemented by business owners, management units, and event organizers.
In addition, at outdoor venues where crowds gather such as scenic tourist spots, night markets, and traditional markets, business owners and venue management units are recommended to institute “capacity limits” to regulate people flow and facilitate the persistent and effective implementation of social distancing at the venue. When social distancing cannot be practiced, you are advised to voluntarily put on a mask and closely follow disease prevention measures implemented by the venue. Moreover, if consumption of food and beverages is necessary, social distancing is also advised.
For outdoor public gatherings such as parades, pilgrimages, and New Year countdown, event organizers should refer to the guidelines for large-scale public gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak to evaluate risks and formulate relevant disease prevention response plans. On top of that, event organizers should also try to keep a record of contact information of people attending the event, and advise participants to wear a mask throughout the event and avoid consumption of food and beverages.
Q7：What should I do if infants and pre-school children cannot wear a mask properly?
A：For infants and pre-school children who cannot persistently wear a mask, parents are advised to avoid exposing them to crowds during rush hours, while maintaining social distancing when taking them out. When it is necessary to take them to public places or ride public transport, parents are advised to put on a child-sized mask for preschool children and pay attention to their mask-wearing status. For infants who cannot wear a mask, parents should carry them in a stroller or a carrier with cover to prevent airborne transmission. Parents are recommended to follow the aforementioned principles closely when taking children to seek medical attention.
Q8 ：COVID-19 clusters have occurred in gyms overseas. What prevention measures should people who visit gyms take?
A：When people visit sports and leisure facilities such as gyms, swimming pools, sauna facilities, and hot springs where they cannot wear a mask throughout the activity at these venues, business owners and venue management units are recommended to institute “capacity limits” to regulate people flow and to space out equipment to prevent transmission and facilitate the persistent and effective implementation of social distancing at these venues. Visitors are also asked to cooperate with disease prevention measures such as contact-information registration, temperature measurement, and hand disinfection. In addition, people are advised to wear a mask before and after participating in an activity, such as before and after using the gym equipment, during warm-up exercises before swimming, getting up after swimming, as well as before and after entering bathtubs and steam rooms. Masks can only be removed when participating in the activity. On top of that, visitors are also advised to maintain social distancing with one another.
Q9：Will I be penalized for failing to comply with the mandatory mask-wearing rule at the announced 8 types of high-risk venues? What kind of penalty will I face?
A：The mandatory mask-wearing rule is imposed according to Subparagraph 6, Paragraph 1, Article 37 of the Communicable Disease Control Act; violators will be penalized by the local government according to Article 70 of the Communicable Disease Control Act and can be fined NT$ 3,000 to NT$ 15,000.
Q10: Will the person in charge of a place where masks are required be penalized for a person inside who refuses to wear a mask?
A: For the time being, the agency, institution, organization, or business (i.e. the manager, operator, or responsible person) of the place where a person is required to but does not wear a mask will not be penalized. The CECC will keep relevant measures under constant review and update. The manager, operator, or responsible persons of applicable places should fulfill their due management responsibilities; comply with the government's COVID-19 policy; promote public awareness; and work to implement measures such as keeping a record of contact information of people visiting the venue, taking temperature, disinfecting hands and the environment, and controlling the number of people inside.