The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday that its policy toward A(H1N1) influenza would change from trying to prevent it from entering the country to reducing its impact, following the WHO decision to upgrade its pandemic alert to level six.
“We will have domestic infections sooner or later. It is not necessary anymore for us to try to keep it out. It is now more important for us to reduce the impact,” Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) told a press conference at the CECC after a meeting in response to the WHO’s move.
Yeh said he was satisfied with what Taiwanese epidemiologists have done so far.
“We need more manpower to work on vaccine production so we need to stop certain anti-epidemic work,” Yeh said.
The minister promised that the vaccine would be ready by the autumn.
“Probably sometime in September,” he said.
Meanwhile, the CECC also announced the 37th confirmed domestic swine flu case yesterday. CECC spokesman Shih Wen-yi (施文儀) said that the patient was a 23-year-old female college student from a group who recently returned from Thailand.
Shih said that there was no need for people to cancel or postpone trips to foreign countries, but he urged tour guides and travel agencies not to plan outings to crowded public locations, such as nightclubs during trips.
Shih also reminded tour guides to help travelers should they start to show flu-like symptoms.
Failure to do so could lead to a fine of between NT$10,000 and NT$150,000.
“Once a tour guide discovers a group member is feeling unwell, the guide should immediately help them find a doctor. Tour guides will be fined if their negligence helps the spread of the virus,” Shih said.
“We found that all the college students who were infected in Thailand had been to dinner shows or local nightclubs. These places are quite risky, especially as there are more and more confirmed cases in Thailand,” Shih said.
In response to Yeh’s prediction that there would be a large-scale domestic infection in the future, Shih said there was nothing to fear.
“This is something we already knew and are already prepared for, so there is no need to panic,” Shih said.
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