The nation’s first large-scale emergency drill to test disease prevention and control measures for a possible community transmission of COVID-19 was yesterday held in Yangbei Community (央北社區) in New Taipei City’s Sindian District (新店).
New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) served as the drill commander, while Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) — who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) — and CECC advisory specialist panel convener Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) attended the one-and-a-half-hour operation.
A total of 450 people, including city government officials, healthcare workers, military personnel and community volunteers, participated in the drill.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
Four scenarios were simulated, with the first being “disease prevention promotion” before a community infection and the second being “some sporadic confirmed cases.”
The third was a “virus transmission in a single community” scenario, in which enhanced community entry-exit controls would be implemented, and the city’s Department of Social Welfare and Animal Protection Office would shelter young children or pets in controlled areas if their parents or owners are infected by the virus.
The fourth scenario was a “large-scale community spread” — defined as more than 3,000 confirmed cases — in which an advance command post would be set up in the community with the most severe outbreak, and a screening hospital would be designated to assess patients and treat them, while Far Eastern Memorial Hospital in Banciao District (板橋) would take in the most severe cases.
The city can hospitalize a maximum of 678 COVID-19 patients, but aims to expand its capacity to at least 1,000 beds, Hou said, adding that the city government has also chosen isolation centers that can quarantine up to 2,000 patients with mild symptoms if a large-scale community transmission occurs.
Medical personnel from 17 New Taipei City hospital branches attended the drill, and simulated assessing patients’ conditions and taking people who are under home quarantine to designated hospitals, as well as clearing out hospital beds in the New Taipei City Hospital’s Sanchong Branch and taking patients to other hospitals.
Military personnel simulated a large-scale disinfection scenario by spraying disinfectant in the streets and public spaces.
Hou said that if the COVID-19 situation gets worse, decisions such as whether commercial activity or schools should be suspended, or whether traffic controls should be implemented, would have to be made by the central government.
A joint drill, including the central government and four cities and counties in northern Taiwan, could be considered as a next step, he added.
Chen praised the drill as “very realistic” and a demonstration of “advance arrangement,” saying that if all local governments show the same preparation, the CECC would be more at ease.
The COVID-19 situation in Europe is worrying, because it shows how a little carelessness can cause the situation in a developed region to worsen rapidly, he said, adding that proactive measures between agencies are important, and that people should remain aware, but not panic.
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