Taipei, Feb. 4 (CNA) The limited ferry services between the Taiwan-held islands of Kinmen and Matsu and nearby Chinese cities will continue beyond Feb. 6, when they were originally scheduled to end, Taiwan government said Saturday.
The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top agency responsible for matters related to China, said some additional trips will be scheduled between Taiwan's outlying islands and China starting Feb. 7.
On Dec. 22, the government announced that it would allow a limited reopening of ferry links, with a maximum of one ferry trip a day from Kinmen to Xiamen and no more than two trips per week from the Matsu Islands to Fuzhou from Jan. 7 to Feb. 6.
The services were provided exclusively for Kinmen and Matsu residents and their Chinese spouses and children to enable them to travel between the two island chains and China during the Lunar New Year holiday without having to first fly to Taiwan and then to China.
That would have been a major inconvenience, given that the main island of Kinmen is less than 10 kilometers from Xiamen while over 300 kilometers from Taipei.
Due to government concerns over the surge in COVID-19 cases in China, Taiwan residents working or studying in China and Chinese travelers were not permitted on the ferries during the one-month period.
The government argued that if those groups traveled to Kinmen or Matsu and tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, they would increase the strain on the two counties' limited medical capacities.
Under the extended opening announced Saturday, eligibility for the ferry rides will remain the same, and the MAC said it will maintain the limit of one ferry trip a day between Kinmen and Xiamen.
It will, however, increase the frequency of trips between Matsu and Fuzhou to four per week and restart the service between Kinmen and Quanzhou, with no more than two trips a week.
Chai So-ling (翟所領), a vice chairman of the Association of Taiwan Investment Enterprises on the Mainland, was not a fan of the continued limitations on the ferry services.
The COVID-19 medical concerns that initially caused ferry services to be suspended three years ago would no longer be an issue with proper planning, and now that the COVID-19 surge in China was coming under control, the only reason not to fully resume the ferry runs was political, Chai argued.
He also said it would be better if the program were opened again to business commuters who live on the island of Taiwan but want to travel to China's southeastern coast via Kinmen or Matsu.