Starting today, arrivals on long-haul flights must wait for the results of COVID-19 tests before finishing airport entry procedures, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday.
The center also reported six locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, possibly linked to the airport cluster, and 26 imported cases.
As more than two dozen local COVID-19 cases have since Monday last week been reported among workers at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and their close contacts, as well as a few people likely linked to them, the center on Sunday said that entry quarantine procedures would be revised.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, yesterday said that the entry quarantine procedure would be tightened from midnight.
People arriving on long-haul flights would be required to take a government-funded rapid polymerase chain reaction test and wait for the results before finishing their entry procedure, he said.
“‘Long haul flights’ refers to those arriving from Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand,” he said.
Arrivals who test positive would be processed away from other travelers, with special personnel inspecting their documents and a separate exit leading to an ambulance, which would take them and their belongings to a hospital, Chen said.
Those who test negative would be allowed to go through normal entry procedures, and take a disease prevention vehicle to a quarantine hotel or centralized quarantine facility, he added.
“We hope to move the ‘line of defense’ to the front line to reduce the risk of infection during the entry process,” Chen said, adding that hopefully the policy would lower the infection risk of disease prevention taxi drivers, frontline airport workers and quarantine staff.
“As the incubation period of the Omicron variant [of SARS-CoV-2] is much shorter, we believe a large proportion of infected travelers will be detected at the airport under the new policy,” he said.
Chen said that he visited Taoyuan airport yesterday morning to check the redesigned passenger routes and waiting areas.
The changes ensure that passengers from different flights do not wait in the same areas, and the center checked air ventilation and disinfection measures at the testing and resting areas to prevent the risk of cross-contamination, he said.
“We urge inbound travelers to cooperate with airport staff, and avoid walking around while waiting for the COVID-19 test and for the result,” he added.
One of the six local cases confirmed yesterday was a family member of case No. 17,369 — a member of the Golden Voice Social Club, who was in close contact with an infected airport cleaner at the club, Chen said.
Two other local cases are airport workers who handle baggage carts, he said, adding that one of them carpools with three colleagues, one of whom is a previously reported case — case No. 17,473, another airport worker who handles baggage carts.
The two other people in the carpool group have tested negative, but are in home isolation, he said.
Another local case is a child who is the son of an infected couple — case Nos. 17,473 and 17,472, Chen said.
A classmate at an after-school childcare center also tested positive for COVID-19, he said, adding that the children attend different elementary schools, where classes have been suspended for 14 days.
The boy’s elder brother did not test positive, but the center asked the junior-high school he attends to suspend class for one day as a preventive measure, Chen said.
The sixth local case is a friend of case No. 17,472, a personal care aide, who they visited for about 30 minutes, and was therefore tested as a close contact, he said.
The sixth case has a daughter, and her junior-high school was also asked to suspend classes for one day, he added.
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