CORONAVIRUS/Government urged to do more to address COVID-19 rapid test shortage

04/26/2022 10:29 PM
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A pharmacy in Taipei displays a message saying "rapid tests sold out" on Tuesday. CNA photo April 26, 2022
A pharmacy in Taipei displays a message saying "rapid tests sold out" on Tuesday. CNA photo April 26, 2022

Taipei, April 26 (CNA) The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) mayors on Tuesday urged the government to do more to address the shortage of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in the wake of the recent surge in domestic cases.

The KMT said at a press conference that the new "3+4" quarantine rules -- which require contacts of people confirmed with COVID-19 to use about five tests per week -- has increased the pressure on local governments.

Most local governments are already struggling with test shortages and there could be increasing market chaos, including hoarding and panic buying, KMT Deputy Secretary-General Wang Yu-min (王育敏) said.

Wang pointed out that it has been estimated about 50,000 individuals could contract COVID-19 per day at its peak in Taiwan, which translates to about 210,000 contacts per day who will be subject to the "3+4" rule -- quarantine for three days and then close monitoring of their own health for the following four days.

Given that each contact requires five tests during the seven-day period, that equates to demand for 31.5 million tests per month, she said.

Related: Taiwan cuts double rapid test requirement for '3+4' quarantine rule

In addition, the KMT estimates it will take 90-130 million tests per month to maintain normal economic activity as workers, for instance, could be asked to test negative before going to work, she said.

Students around the country might also need 34-50.5 million tests per month to go to school, Wang said, adding that as a result Taiwan will need more than 100 million tests a month.

The government's plans -- whether to import 100 million rapid tests or a requisitioning program that aims to secure 40 million tests per month -- do not meet that demand, Wang added.

The government must boost test capacity, outline the schedule for its name-based rationing scheme for tests, and allow the import and sale of a wider range of tests as soon as possible, she said.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted and released by the KMT showed that 61.6 percent of people in Taiwan support co-existing with the COVID-19 virus, though 68.2 percent voiced concerns about being infected if co-existence becomes government policy.

Mayors' comments

Keelung Mayor Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) of the DPP also said the city needs more rapid tests to address insufficient manpower to administer COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests.

Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) also of the DPP suggested that in addition to the central government-level rationing scheme, local governments should be allowed to retain a test reserve equivalent to 10 percent of their population.

Meanwhile, Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) of the DPP asked the central government to introduce clearer regulations for local governments that want to import rapid tests on their own.

In response to test shortage concerns, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said it is in the final stage of completing the rationing scheme, adding that local governments should report their test needs and plans to procure them either domestically or from abroad as long as the brands are CECC-recognized.

In related news, the Ministry of Finance announced Tuesday that the tax filing deadline for those in quarantine with COVID-19 will be extended from May 31 to June 30.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan, Chang Ai, Liu Kuan-ting and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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Update

May 7: Quarantine cut to 7 days for mild, asymptomatic COVID-19 cases: CECC

May 7: Taiwan rolls back quarantine rules for contacts of COVID-19 patients

May 5: Rapid test positives to be counted as confirmed COVID cases from May 12

May 3: Taiwan to shorten quarantine for arriving travelers from 10 to 7 days

May 2: Symptomless people to face restrictions in getting PCR test

April 28:COVID-19 contacts to receive fewer free tests during '3+4' quarantine 

April 28: Nearly 60,000 COVID-19 rapid test kits sold in 2 hours

April 27: Taiwan to start rationing sale of COVID-19 rapid test kits 

Related News

April 24: Taiwan producer to cut prices for COVID rapid test kits

April 24: Rationing system for COVID-19 rapid tests to launch in May

April 21: Rapid testing to replace preventive quarantine: health minister

April 18: No tests needed for mild COVID-19 cases to end 10-day quarantine: CECC

April 14: Taiwan to requisition 40 million COVID rapid tests a month: premier

April 12: Taiwan replaces PCR testing with rapid tests to end quarantine

April 7: Taiwan suspends some COVID contact tracing, adopts new control model

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