CORONAVIRUS/Mask mandate relaxed again under extended Level 2 COVID-19 alert

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Sunday extended the currently Level 2 COVID-19 alert for another two weeks to Nov. 1, but announced more, if somewhat vague, exceptions to face mask-wearing requirements.

"Considering the ongoing efforts to administer vaccines, we decided to maintain the Level 2 COVID-19 alert from Oct. 19 to Nov. 1," Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (???) said during the CECC's press briefing.

According to Chen, 62.11 percent of Taiwan's 23.43 million population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 22.01 percent have been fully vaccinated as of Sunday.

The figures are still relatively low, meaning Taiwan does not yet have enough protection against the disease even if COVID-19 is under control, Chen said, noting that only three domestic cases have been reported in October.

Taiwan has been under the Level 2 alert since July 27, and it was to expire on Oct. 18, before the CECC announced a two-week extension for a sixth time.

Despite maintaining a Level 2 alert, the CECC has gradually relaxed some restrictions, include requirements on wearing masks.

Taiwan residents are now allowed to eat in restaurants, where masks do not apply, and as of Oct. 5 they do not have to wear a mask in more remote areas such as on farms or while out hiking as long as they can stay socially distanced.

On Sunday, Chen said starting Tuesday people will no longer have to wear a mask when they are exercising outdoors as long as they do not have symptoms and can maintain a distance of 1 meter from other people.

People can also take off their mask briefly for group photos, and when eating or drinking when they are out on the street if social distancing rules are followed, he said.

When asked about what people should do when on a sidewalk or exercising and passing by others who might be closer than one meter away, however, Chen could not provide a direct answer, simply repeating the need to maintain social distancing guidelines.

He also said that when resting outdoors, people should still wear masks.

As a general rule, people should wear a face mask outside their residence, and have one ready even if they are in situations where they don't have to wear one, Chen reiterated.

Meanwhile, entertainment and leisure businesses, such as dance halls, nightclubs, and bars, which have been ordered to close since mid-May, are to remain closed for another two weeks, Chen said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel