CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan mulls easing restrictions related to COVID-19 patients

09/30/2022 08:56 PM
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CNA file photo
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Taipei, Sept. 30 (CNA) Taiwan's government is considering easing restrictions on individuals infected with COVID-19 by shortening a seven-day health monitoring period and allowing them to dine out during that time, an official said Friday.

Under existing home quarantine rules for COVID-19 patients, dubbed the "7+7" protocol, infected individuals must isolate themselves for seven days and then observe seven days of "self-initiated epidemic prevention" period, during which they are allowed outside but barred from eating out.

Experts recently consulted by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) felt it "necessary," however, to relax restrictions during the "self-initiated epidemic prevention" part of the protocol, CECC official Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said at a press conference Friday.

The experts have proposed lifting the ban on dining out once an individual tests negative for COVID-19 using a rapid antigen test, Lo said, adding that implementation rules for the proposal will be announced next week.

The experts also suggested that a confirmed COVID-19 patient be exempt from the "self-initiated epidemic prevention" period once he or she receives a negative rapid test result, according to CECC head Victor Wang (王必勝).

Wang indicated that further discussion would be needed to evaluate whether it was appropriate to cut short or conditionally scrap the "self-initiated epidemic prevention" period.

7-day isolation to stay

As for the first seven days of mandatory isolation under the protocol, because experts were divided on whether to loosen the rules that applied to those seven days of mandatory isolation, those rules will remain unchanged under the new protocol, Lo said.

According to the "7+7" protocol, a COVID-19 patient is allowed to end his or her isolation without having to take a rapid test seven days after he or she is confirmed to be infected with the virus.

The seven days of isolation can be cut short under some circumstances, however, such as the patient producing two negative rapid test results in five days after a patient is confirmed positive or shows symptoms or when a rapid test taken between the fifth and the seventh day of isolation returns negative.

Foreign students

Separately, the CECC remained undecided on Friday as to whether foreign students who enter Taiwan starting Oct. 13 would be exempt from being quarantined as will be the case for other arrivals.

Taiwan is set to lift the current three days of mandatory quarantine imposed on arrivals staring on Oct. 13, but officials have yet to decide whether to include migrant workers and foreign students under the new policy.

Starting Oct. 13, arrivals will only be required to observe seven days of "self-initiated epidemic prevention," dubbed "0+7," a protocol that will replace the existing "3+4" policy -- three days of quarantine followed by four days of "self-initiated epidemic prevention."

The Ministry of Education (MOE) reportedly proposed to the CECC that the "0+7" policy be extended to about 20,000 foreign students who are scheduled to arrive in Taiwan to study at a local school.

Under the reported proposal, the MOE suggested that the students be allowed to go out or attend classes as long as they do not show COVID-19 symptoms and present a negative result from a rapid test taken within the previous two days.

The CECC has not made a decision on the MOE proposal, Wang said.

Migrant workers

Currently, migrant workers have to stay in quarantine hotels or quarantine dormitories with only one person per room and are not allowed to go out during a seven-day period after arrival, except for an emergency situation such as to seek medical attention.

The Ministry of Labor has reportedly suggested that the "0+7" policy be applied to migrant workers to allow them to start working after arrival on condition that they have had a negative rapid test result within the previous two days.

The proposal is also being considered by the CECC, according to a local media report.

(By Chen Chih-chung, Shen Pei-yao and Shih Hsiu-chuan)

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