Q&A/What to do if you or your contacts get COVID-19 (May 8 update)
Taipei, May 8 (CNA) Taiwan has seen a spike in locally transmitted COVID-19 infections in recent months, mostly involving individuals who contracted the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
While Omicron is highly transmissible, over 99 percent of the reported cases have been mild or asymptomatic. Due to this, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has shifted away from a zero-COVID-19 policy and said it is focusing on harm reduction.
The CECC announced on Saturday that COVID confirmed cases will be asked to observe a "7+7" isolation plan starting May 8, involving seven days of home quarantine followed by seven days of "self-health management."
Anyone who observes the seven days of self-health management may return to work and school as normal, and will not be required to take any additional rapid tests.
However, such individuals should refrain from participating in group gatherings, attending large-scale activities where there are many people, and dining in restaurants. They should also wear their face masks at all times when outside.
Meanwhile, the definition of "close contacts" will now be narrowed to an infected individual's cohabitants who will be asked to observe a "3+4" isolation plan involving three days of home quarantine followed by four days of "self-initiated epidemic prevention."
Self-initiated epidemic prevention refers to that people have to take rapid tests and get a negative result every day before leaving the house for work or to purchase necessities. They may not attend school during their self-initiated epidemic prevention.
Faced with the ongoing rise in local cases, what can you do if you came into contact with a person who later tests positive for the disease? What should you do next if you take a rapid test at home and get a positive result? And what should you do if you have been confirmed as having COVID-19?
● What should I do if my rapid antigen self-test is positive?
Currently, the CECC is planning to launch a new set of protocols starting May 12 for those testing positive from rapid tests. Below are rules you should abide by between May 8 and 11 and after May 12.
-If you are not in home quarantine or observing self-initiated epidemic prevention
Before and after May 12: If you test positive for COVID-19 but are not currently undergoing home quarantine or observing self-initiated epidemic prevention protocols, seal your used self-test kit safely in a plastic bag and take it to the nearest COVID-19 testing station.
Medical workers there will then give you a PCR test (click here for a list of testing stations in Taipei and New Taipei). Please drive or ride your own vehicle since you must not use public transport to travel to the testing station and must wear your mask at all times.
-If you are in home quarantine or observing self-initiated epidemic prevention
Before May 12: If you test positive via a rapid test for COVID-19 and are already in home quarantine or observing self-initiated epidemic prevention protocols, first contact the local health authorities immediately and follow their instructions to get a PCR test.
Before May 12: If you test positive via a rapid test for COVID-19 and are observing self-initiated epidemic prevention, drive or ride your own vehicle or walk to your closest hospital for a PCR test while wearing a face mask.
After May 12: If you test positive via a rapid test while in home quarantine or while observing self-initiated epidemic prevention protocols, you should remain at home and then schedule a remote diagnosis using the Eucare (健康益友) app (Google Android / Apple iOS) to report your status.
● What should I do if I am positive for COVID-19?
If you have been confirmed as positive following a PCR test, quarantine yourself in your own room away from your cohabitants and await instructions from health officials.
-Mild symptoms or asymptomatic
According to the CECC's latest policy, as of May 8, people confirmed with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms will generally be asked to follow a "7+7" plan, involving seven days of quarantine at their own residences followed by seven days of self-health management.
The 7+7 plan, however, does not apply to those already quarantined at home before May 8, who must observe their current quarantine plan.
If you are asymptomatic or have mild enough symptoms to be recommended for the 7+7 quarantine plan by the government, remain in your own room for your seven-day quarantine.
Generally, infected individuals under the age of 69, and those not undergoing dialysis will be asked to follow the 7+7 plan.
High risk groups (click here for the revised criterea announced on May 17)
However, if you are between the ages of 65 and 69 and live alone without a support system, you will be relocated to a government-appointed quarantine facility following a positive test.
If you are someone who has been pregnant for 35 weeks or less, or someone who has severe enough symptoms but has not yet met the requirements for hospitalization, you will be relocated to a government-appointed quarantine facility as well.
The seven days of home quarantine will be counted from the day after you begin the program, with the notification date of your positive test result counting as "day 0."
'7+7' home quarantine rules
During your home quarantine, be sure to abide by the "one-person per room rule" and do your best to not leave the space you are isolating yourself in. Remember to wear a face mask when you have to leave your room and disinfect your hands as much as possible.
Refrain from coming into contact or sharing bathrooms and meals with others in your residence. Please have meals prepared for you to eat in your own room.
You should contact the local health authorities immediately if you developed the following symptoms during your 7+7 home quarantine: shortness of breath, chest discomfort or pain, loss of consciousness, and discoloration on your lips, fingertips, or skin.
Under the 7+7 plan, you can leave isolation after seven days without having to test negative and can begin your seven days of self-health management.
-Moderate to severe symptoms and patients in need of medical attention
If you are someone with moderate to severe symptoms, you will be admitted to a hospital to undergo quarantine.
Other patient types that will also be hospitalized automatically include those who are aged 80 and above, infants under 3 months old with a fever and a doctor's recommendation for hospitalization, infants between 3 and 12 months old with a fever that is 39 degrees Celsius and above and a doctor's recommendation for hospitalization, as well as those who are at least 36 weeks pregnant.
You may be released from the hospital after seven days, or if you produce two negative rapid test results administered during your quarantine.
You may also leave quarantine early if you produce a negative result on a rapid test administered five days after your PCR test or five days after developing symptoms.
If your symptoms become more severe or if you are in need of more medical attention, you will be transferred to a specialized hospital ward for further care and assessment.
You will then be released from the hospital to begin your self-health management when your symptoms subside and you produce a negative result on a PCR test or a cycle threshold value that is 30 and above.
While observing your seven days self-health management, you may return to work and school as normal, and will not be required to take any additional rapid tests.
However, you should refrain from participating in group gatherings, attending large-scale activities where there are many people, and dining in restaurants. You should also wear your face masks at all times when outside.
● What should I do if someone I am living with is positive?
According to the CECC's definition as of May 8, only those who live in the same residence as a positive case will be considered close contacts. Such individuals must then follow a "3+4" quarantine plan, which consists of three days of home quarantine followed by four days of self-initiated epidemic prevention.
If you have been listed as a close contact before May 8, but do not live with someone who is positive, you can leave quarantine immediately and adopt self-initiated responsive measures where you can determine the most proper action to take for the sake of those around you.
'3+4' quarantine for cohabitants
Under the 3+4 quarantine rule, the first three days of quarantine will require cohabitants in the same household to stay in their own rooms, limited to one person per room.
If you live with someone who has tested positive, you may not leave your residence and must take a rapid test on the day when you have been officially notified that you are a close contact.
Your three days of home quarantine starts after the day of your notification, which is counted as "day 0."
During your four days of self-initiated epidemic prevention, you will have to take rapid tests and get a negative result every day before leaving the house for work or to purchase necessities. You may not attend school during your self-initiated epidemic prevention.
Rapid tests will not be necessary on the days you choose to stay at home.
While outside, you may use public transportation. However, you may not dine in restaurants, participate in large gatherings, or go to crowded places.
● What should I do if my co-worker or classmate is positive?
As classmates and co-workers are no longer counted as "close contacts," those from the same school or workplace as positive cases will be asked to observe self-initiated responsive measures.
According to Education Minister Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠), rules will be changed to allow on-site classes to continue even if the schools have several cases of COVID-19.
As of May 8, the CECC will no longer issue quarantine notices to classmates or co-workers of confirmed cases.
By the CECC's definition, schools and workplaces observing self-initiated responsive measures should decide to initiate remote working or learning depending on the severity of cases in individual locations.
● Home quarantine and the "7+7" rule for those returning from overseas
The home quarantine "7+7" rule starts May 9 and applies to those returning to Taiwan from abroad.
The day of arrival to Taiwan is counted as "day 0" and also the day when the quarantine begins.
Only one person may occupy one household. If you are unable to meet this requirement, you must stay in a government-appointed quarantine hotel.
Individuals under the rule will take a rapid test at the end of the quarantine period.
Children returning from overseas observing the 7+7 quarantine protocol and who are 2 years old or younger will be asked to take PCR tests instead of rapid tests at the end of their quarantine.
During the subsequent seven days of self-health management, asymptomatic individuals may return to a normal life but must refrain from going to crowded places, dining in restaurants, and attending large gatherings.
● Where can I buy a rapid home kit?
Amid skyrocketing demand for rapid tests due to a spike in domestic COVID-19 infections, the government launched a name-based rationing plan for the sale of rapid test kits on April 28.
Under the program, anyone with a national identification card or Alien Resident Certificate can purchase one kit which contains five tests at a controlled price of NT$500 at national health insurance (NHI)-contracted pharmacies and public health centers.
Other brands of rapid tests can also be purchased at pharmacies and retailers such as a.mart, PX Mart, Carrefour Taiwan, Cosmed, and Watsons, albeit at higher costs.
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