CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan COVID-19 News Briefs: May 26
Taipei, May 26 (CNA) Taiwan on Thursday reported 81,907 new COVID-19 cases, down slightly from the day before, and 104 deaths from the disease, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).
Here are some of the new developments regarding the COVID-19 situation around Taiwan on Thursday:
Remote classes extended in many locations
Most of Taiwan's city and county governments announced Thursday that they will continue to hold remote classes next week for students at high school level and below.
As of press time, Taipei, Keelung, Taoyuan, Hsinchu City, Hsinchu County, Miaoli, Taichung, Changhua, Nantou, Yunlin, Chiayi City, Chiayi County, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung, Yilan, Hualien, Taitung, Penghu and Kinmen had all said they will move classes online for the week beginning May 30.
In New Taipei, the city's Education Department said it will continue to authorize schools to decide for themselves whether to hold classes in-person or remotely, citing urban/rural differences and varying COVID-19 risk assessments in different areas.
In Matsu, local schools will be allowed to decide how they hold classes next week, but will move online for the week of June 6-10, which follows the Dragon Boat Festival holiday weekend.
According to the county government, holding classes online will help to reduce COVID-19 infections in the week after the holiday, during which large numbers of people travel to and from the Matsu Islands.
High demand for children's vaccine amid encephalitis fears
Around 24,000 children aged 5-11 received a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech children's vaccine after it was rolled out in many parts of Taiwan on Wednesday, according to Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中).
In part, the high demand is being driven by fears about encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, which has been a factor in seven of the 16 severe COVID-19 cases among children in Taiwan, as well as in five of the seven deaths.
National Taiwan University Hospital infectious diseases specialist Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) said the situation was similar to a 1998 outbreak of enterovirus 71, in which the virus often proved fatal in cases where it entered a patient's brain stem.
During the 1998 outbreak, around 120,000 enterovirus cases were confirmed in children, resulting in 405 severe infections and 78 deaths, equal to a fatality rate of around 6 per 10,000, said CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥).
Taichung to send free rapid tests to kids aged 2-12
Taichung announced Thursday that it is planning to send two free rapid tests to children aged 2-12 and to all residents of Heping District, a mountainous Indigenous district in the east of the city.
In total, about 303,000 people will receive the free tests under the initiative, which begins on May 30, the city government said.
When to get a PCR test
Despite the government's new policy allowing rapid test-based COVID-19 diagnoses, there are still situations in which people should get a PCR test, infectious diseases specialist Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) said Thursday.
Lee advised that people who have COVID-19 symptoms or came into close contact with someone who has the disease, but test negative using a rapid test, should nevertheless confirm their results with a PCR test.
The probability of receiving false negative results on a rapid test can be as high as 20 percent, said Lee, who heads the government's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
Outbreak at Keelung psychiatric hospital
108 residents and staff at a psychiatric hospital in Keelung have contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of this month, the head of the city's health bureau said Thursday.
Bureau chief Wu Tse-cheng (吳澤誠) said that of the people infected, one resident has been hospitalized for low blood-oxygen concentration, while 48 people have finished quarantine.
A much larger outbreak, involving 375 patients and staff, was reported at another psychiatric facility - MOHW Yuli Hospital --- in Hualien last week.
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