The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced that a ban on medical personnel traveling abroad is to last until June 30 and that tightened access controls would be implemented at hospitals to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak at healthcare facilities.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, on Sunday said that medical personnel would be banned from traveling abroad, but the CECC on Monday clarified that there are different levels to the ban, and that the details and complementary measures would be discussed in a meeting on Tuesday.
“The subject of the ban is all medical personnel, of any department and any position, working in hospitals, but those working in clinics are not included,” Ministry of Health and Welfare Department of Medical Affairs Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) told a news conference at the CECC yesterday.
Photo courtesy of the Central Epidemic Command Center
Medical personnel are strictly prohibited from visiting countries or areas where the center has issued a level 3 “warning” travel advisory for COVID-19 — China, Hong Kong, Macau and South Korea — and they must apply to and gain approval from the ministry if they need to make a visit, he said.
Medical personnel are asked to temporarily avoid travel to countries where a level 2 “alert” or a level 1 “watch” travel advisories have been issued — such as Japan, Singapore, Iran, Italy and Thailand, Shih said, adding that they would have to apply in advance and gain approval from their hospitals before leaving.
The ban went into effect on Sunday and is to last until “June 30, but it might be shortened or extended depending on the COVID-19 epidemic situation,” Shih said. “The prohibition includes layovers in any of these countries or areas.”
Medical personnel who have gained special approval to visit the affected areas must comply with quarantine rules for such areas and would not be allowed to take part in frontline healthcare work for 14 days after returning to Taiwan, he said.
People who have traveled to areas with a level 3 travel advisory in the 14 days prior to their arrival in Taiwan face a 14-day mandatory home quarantine and those arriving from areas with a level 2 or a level 1 travel notice must perform self-health management for 14 days.
Medical personnel who are affected by the travel ban can apply for full compensation for financial losses, such as from canceling flights, under the Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Restoration (嚴重特殊傳染性肺炎防治及紓困振興特別條例) passed on Tuesday, Shih said.
The meeting on Tuesday with hospital management also concluded that hospitals must step up access controls to prevent COVID-19 transmission, Shih said, adding that the measures are aimed at three types of visitors.
Hospitals are required to make plans to separate the flow of “patients” moving within hospitals, he said.
They should limit visiting hours and the number of visitors — each inpatient can have only two visitors at one time and only one companion, including caretakers — who must register their personal information and travel and contact history with the hospital, he added.
The ministry also set up management guidelines for dispatch workers, including janitors; waste management personnel; security guards; medical gown, bedding rental and laundry service workers; caretakers; and shop employees, Shih said.
The guidelines include requiring dispatch workers to comply with all procedures set by the hospitals; enter and exit through specially arranged routes; and wear a mask when in health facilities, while hospitals should educate outside contractors about disease-prevention measures and ask them to monitor their employees’ health conditions, he said.
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