The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 18 imported cases of COVID-19, bringing Taiwan’s total number of confirmed cases to 153.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the 18 new cases were comprised of 12 women and six men.
Most of the patients are aged between 20 and 40, he said, adding that three are in their 50s and one man is in his 70s.
Six of them exhibited symptoms on arrival in Taiwan and were tested for the virus, three were under home quarantine, two were in home isolation and one was conducting self-health management, Chen said, adding that they were detected while in more protected situations.
The remaining six cases were detected after they sought medical treatment on their own, he said.
People who returned from the US or East Asian countries between March 8 and Wednesday and sought medical attention for respiratory symptoms would be ordered into 14-day home quarantine and tested for the novel coronavirus, the center said.
Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times
“In the past few days we have tracked people who returned from Europe or the Middle East between March 5 and March 14, and issued them home quarantine orders,” Chen said. “Testing has been arranged for those we consider to be at higher risk.”
“We are now tracking people who arrived in Taiwan from the US or East Asian countries between March 8 and Wednesday, and have sought medical attention for respiratory symptoms,” he said. “They will be asked to undergo 14-day home quarantine and testing would be arranged.
There are about 3,000 people who meet the new criteria, Chen said, adding that the center was yesterday afternoon to begin encouraging them to proactively call the 1922 toll-free hotline. It was sending text messages to those with registered mobile phone numbers and having local health bureaus try to contact them to issue quarantine notices and arrange for testing.
Following the implementation of an entry ban on all foreign nationals and home quarantine orders for all arriving travelers, Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥) said that about 1,800 people entered Taiwan as of 12pm yesterday, and there were about 5,000 arrivals on Friday.
“We urge everyone to avoid unnecessary travel,” he said.
As the number of travelers returning and leaving Taiwan have gradually fallen over the past few days, the goal of curbing the flow of people can hopefully be achieved, he added.
As the number of people placed in mandatory home quarantine has rapidly increased due to the tightened border controls, Chen Shih-chung urged them to maintain separation of at least 1m — preferably more than 2m — from people with whom they live.
People should avoid sharing household items, such as tableware, towels and bedding, with people in home quarantine and disinfect their homes regularly, he said, adding that they should also avoid sharing meals and intimate contact.
Asked why Taiwan has not implemented mass testing for the coronavirus like South Korea, Chen Shih-chung said that an average of 1,300 people are tested daily in Taiwan and that the strategy is to screen those at high risk of infection.
If mass testing is conducted, some asymptomatic carriers could have a false negative result due to a low viral load, which could cause them to believe they are safe and forgo precautionary measures, leading to a higher risk of infecting others, he said, adding that the capacity to conduct mass triage and mass isolation are needed for mass screening.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship demonstrated that an inability to completely separate infected people from others led to more infections, he added.
“While we have chosen to test people we consider to be at higher risk, we must also ensure that people get tested immediately after the onset of symptoms,” Chen Shih-chung said.
As the criteria for reporting suspected cases for testing are not clear-cut, it is important that hospitals test suspected patients, who must remain at home while they await results, he said.
Only seven locally transmitted cases have been reported in the past two weeks, four of whom were infected by people who returned from overseas trips, so people do not need to be overly concerned about community spread, he added.
However, as these two weeks are a critical phase in fighting the spread of COVID-19, people who are in home quarantine should strictly conform to the regulations, Chen Shih-chung said.
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