TAIPEI – Taiwan is in talks with international bodies about COVID-19 vaccine passports, the head of its Centres for Disease Control said on Thursday, which could help ease long-standing travel restrictions.

Taiwan has previously considered such a scheme, but has been extremely cautious about opening its largely-closed borders lest it lets in more infections, and is currently on high alert to stop the highly contagious Delta variant.

Taiwan Centres for Disease Control Director-General Chou Jih-haw told reporters they have already begun talks with other governments and international organisations about vaccine passports.

“We hope we can quickly get into step with the international community,” he said, without giving details.

The government is trying to speed a vaccination programme hobbled by supply delays, with around 7% of a population of 23.5 million having received at least one of the required two doses.

Chou said getting vaccines was still very difficult due to global shortages, but that they were working hard and he had no concrete timetable for when more might arrive.

Taiwan’s government said last week it would allow Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of Apple Inc supplier Foxconn , and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd to negotiate on its behalf for vaccines from Germany’s BioNTech SE.

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told the same news conference there was an “opportunity” for this plan to succeed.

“I want to emphasise that it is an opportunity, because there is almost no international use of this procurement method,” he said.

Taiwan is dealing with a cluster of domestic infections, almost all the previously globally dominant Alpha variant, though numbers are stabilising and the outbreak has been comparatively small.

Still, the cases have unnerved the government, which has enacted curbs on public gatherings and closed entertainment venues.

Taiwan has only reported five infections of the Delta variant to date, Chou said, all imported and who were identified while undergoing the strict two weeks quarantine overseas arrivals are subject to. – Reuters