Starting today, non-Taiwanese who are not covered by the National Health Insurance (NHI) will have to shoulder some medical costs if they are quarantined due to H7N9 avian influenza, a category 5 notifiable communicable disease in Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center said yesterday.
In response to recent controversy over government-sponsored mandatory quarantines, the seventh cross-ministry meeting convened by the center reached a resolution on the issue, the center said.
“Foreigners not covered by the NHI, if infected with H7N9 and under mandatory quarantine, will be charged for part of their medical fees, with the exception of fees for the ward, virus detection, anti-virus medication and meals,” Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said, adding that since such quarantine would be obligated by law, it would be reasonable for the government to shoulder some of the costs.
Mandatory quarantine measures against notifiable communicable diseases are required by Article 44 of the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), Chou said.
“However, Article 53 of the same act also states that the commander-in-chief of a central epidemic command center established in a time of emergency can make adjustments if necessitated by the development of the disease’s outbreak,” he said.
Chou said this was a deterrent “against those who might take advantage of our hospitality.”
CDC Director-General Chang Feng-yee (張峰義), who also heads the Central Epidemic Command Center, said the change “acts as a reminder, but entails little impact” on the overall disease control and prevention mechanism.
Chou and Chang advised people planning to travel to Taiwan to insure themselves against accidents and the risk of incurring medical expenses.
“Medical expenses can be high if intensive care is required,” Chang said.
Tourism Bureau official Lin Yan-mei (林燕美) told the press conference that compared with the 16,415 Chinese who visited Taiwan during China’s May First holiday last year, “we are seeing a negative growth this year, with an expected number of 14,689.”
“About 49 percent of the Chinese tourists expected to come in the May 1 to May 7 period are from the H7N9-affected regions, which now include eight Chinese provinces and two cities,” Lin said.