CORONAVIRUS/No need to test all arrivals in Taiwan for COVID-19: CECC

07/29/2020 06:14 PM
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A CDC official at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. CNA file photo
A CDC official at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. CNA file photo

Taipei, July 29 (CNA) The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday there is no need to test all arrivals in Taiwan for COVID-19, as current quarantine regulations have proven to be successful in disease prevention.

At a weekly press briefing that marked the 108th consecutive day with no new domestic cases in the country, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the CECC, said Taiwan's mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals, including Taiwan nationals, helps safeguard the country because of the timing of the disease's incubation period.

"Timing is very important, because you can't just test at anytime and hope for accurate results," Chen said.

Results will be more accurate if testing is done two days before and seven to nine days after the development of symptoms, Chen said, adding that tests done too early may take place in the incubation period and produce false negative results.

Furthermore, symptoms are most likely to develop within 14 days, which is also an indicator of when tests will produce more accurate results, Chen said, adding that he also understands there are asymptomatic cases.

"Patients may also be asymptomatic, but after 14 days of quarantine, their viral load will have dropped so low that they won't be able to infect other people," Chen said.

On June 29, public health experts in Taiwan issued a call for everyone entering the country from overseas to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, following a model used in Iceland to kick start its economy amid the pandemic.

Since June 15, passengers arriving in Iceland have been able to choose between a COVID-19 test or be quarantined for two weeks, said Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權), dean of National Taiwan University's College of Public Health.

Chan said the model has become an example to follow, and Taiwan can use the idea to formulate its own policies regarding inbound and outbound passengers.

"I think testing all those who enter Taiwan is already unavoidable. It is something the country must do. And we can use the results to adjust the standard 14-day quarantine," Chan said.

Carrying out testing for incoming passengers will help business travelers and facilitate the movement of professionals with technical skills who travel a lot, Chan said.

Without directly naming Chan or Iceland, Chen said that if incoming travelers happen to test negative within the incubation period that still does not completely exclude the possibility that they are positive.

"If we assume someone is negative while still in the incubation period, it may create a threat of high transmission rates within communities (in Taiwan)," Chen said.

Chen also said that even though the 14-day mandatory quarantine is the safest option, he understands that it has a heavy impact on society.

"However, under the current pandemic where new cases are skyrocketing globally, a safer approach should be taken to safeguard Taiwan," Chen said, adding that regulations may be adjusted in the future, depending on developments.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected 16,701,684 people in 187 countries and regions, including 4,436,478 in the United States, 2,483,191 in Brazil, 1,483,156 in India, 823,515 in Russia, and 459,761 in South Africa, with a total of 659,892 fatalities, according to CECC statistics as of Wednesday.

(By William Yen)

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