A public health expert yesterday warned that too many people are meeting in small groups in coffee shops and restaurants without keeping a proper distance from one another, as he urged the government to loosen the criteria for testing young Taiwanese returning from abroad for COVID-19.
People need to keep a social distance of at least 2m, National Taiwan University (NTU) College of Public Health dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) said as the college presented its seventh weekly report on COVID-19 at a morning news conference.
More than 300,000 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in more than three-quarters of all countries, and many nations have implemented different levels of border controls and restrictions to curb the spread, he said.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
While the government’s efforts to prevent mass gatherings and detecting cases at airports have been praised, making sure people comply with quarantine measures is crucial now that many Taiwanese are returning from abroad, he said.
The situation in the US shows that not only elderly people, but young people older than 18 are also susceptible to COVID-19, with some being hospitalized after developing serious complications, he said, adding: “Young people must be very cautious about social gatherings.”
He saw many young people in coffee shops and restaurants over the weekend, which made him “very concerned,” which is why he is urging everyone to avoid such gatherings, and if they are necessary, participants should remain at least 2m apart, he said.
The government should also loosen the criteria for testing students returning home, because many of the young people with confirmed cases in Italy and the US were asymptomatic, Chan said.
College vice dean Tony Chen (陳秀熙) said the global outbreak shows that it is a “social virus” that spreads rapidly among people through social activities, and based on global statistics from the past few days, he predicts that as many as 510,000 new cases could be confirmed this week, bringing the total worldwide to more than 730,000 by Saturday.
COVID-19’s basic reproduction number, the average number of people that one infected person goes on to infect among a group with no immunity, and the testing positive rate can be used to predict if the novel coronavirus might spread across local communities, Chen said.
The virus’ basic reproduction number is below 1 at present and the positive rate in testing is about 0.3 percent in Taiwan, which shows that the disease is still under control, as the basic reproduction number in European countries and the US is above 2, indicative of local outbreaks, he said.
However, Chan said that the public needs to remember that the common enemy is the virus, not infected people, those under quarantine or people who have direct contact with them, such as healthcare workers.
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