CORONAVIRUS/Health experts push COVID-19 testing for all inbound passengers

07/06/2020 07:36 PM
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CNA file photo used for illustrative purposes only
CNA file photo used for illustrative purposes only

Taipei, July 6 (CNA) Public health experts on Monday called for Taiwan to allow all incoming passengers to be given the option of testing for COVID-19 instead of just following the current 14-day mandatory quarantine.

Currently, Taiwan does not test all incoming passengers or give them an option to take a test unless they display symptoms and are directed to do so after an evaluation by health authorities at the border.

At a weekly press briefing in Taipei, Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), dean of National Taiwan University's College of Public Health (NTUCPH), said a first test could be taken when passengers arrive at an airport or seaport and then be repeated on the fifth day, with quarantine lifted if both tests are negative.

After quarantine requirements are lifted, passengers could be subject to electronic tracing and be required to provide their real names and contact details when participating in events, Chan said.

"When a traveler comes to Taiwan, he or she will usually have a plan, and we want to know that plan. We want to know what time they go out, where they go, and who they meet," Chan said.

However, passengers who decline to take a test will be quarantined for 14 days at home, Chan said.

Taiwan currently requires all people arriving from overseas -- whether Taiwanese citizens or foreign nationals -- to be quarantined for 14 days to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and has banned most foreign nationals from entering Taiwan, except for Alien Resident Certificate holders or people who live in Taiwan for diplomatic or business purposes.

Taiwan eased its quarantine restrictions for business travelers on June 22, allowing travelers from 15 countries and territories classified as low risk and low-to-moderate risk to remain in quarantine for only five or seven days, respectively, after arriving, providing they take a test that comes back negative.

Chan suggested that Taiwan could also consider testing outbound passengers within the 48 hours prior to them leaving.

When somebody leaves Taiwan and later receives a positive test elsewhere such testing would let them know if they were infected in Taiwan, Chan said.

"It will also help us understand if there are transmissions within our domestic communities," Chan said.

Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), dean of National Taiwan University
Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), dean of National Taiwan University's College of Public Health (NTUCPH)

Citing statistics from Iceland, which has offered testing to incoming passengers since June 15, a total of 15,197 tests were administered to passengers up to July 2, with only 28 found to have contracted COVID-19, including 22 who had developed antibodies, Chan said.

The remaining six were thought to be contagious and quarantined, Chan added.

Meanwhile, NTUCPH vice dean Chen Hsiu-hsi (陳秀熙) said testing may provide a better solution than to just quarantine because of the amount of time lost by people who can't work.

"Even though a mandatory 14-day quarantine may seem like an easy fix, there is also be a large loss of production," said Chen.

(By William Yen)

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