The Ministry of Health and Welfare yesterday launched a new pandemic response strategy to mark the government’s departure from a “zero COVID-19” policy.
The revised strategy — billed as the “new Taiwanese model” and authorized by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) at a meeting earlier in the day — would no longer focus on total suppression, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told a news conference in Taipei.
The shift in priorities was prompted by the nature of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which produces milder to no symptoms in infected people, to mitigate health risks to communities, reduce the burden on the medical system and maintain a normal life, Chuang cited Su as saying.
Only five people who have contracted COVID-19 this year developed moderate or severe symptoms, while 99.7 percent reported mild or no symptoms, Su said.
This means that health officials can shift gears to mitigating the effects of the pandemic, but the new model is not the same as “living with COVID-19,” as the virus would not be allowed to spread unchecked, Su said.
The strategy is to be implemented under the principle of allowing people to live normal lives, active prevention of the virus’ spread and a stable reopening of the economy, striking a balance between maintaining public health and economic well-being, he added.
Photo courtesy of the Tainan City Government
More incentives should also be offered to encourage people to take a third COVID-19 jab, he said, adding that the public’s ability to remain vigilant and take necessary measures to protect their health is a key part of the new model.
Meanwhile, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported 531 new cases of COVID-19 — 382 domestically transmitted and 149 imported.
The local case count exceeded 100 for the seventh consecutive day and was the highest daily number this year, breaking the previous high of 281 recorded on Wednesday.
New Taipei City had the most cases at 111, followed by Taipei with 87 and Kaohsiung with 59, the CECC said.
Of the 149 imported cases, 78 were travelers who tested positive on arrival, it said.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced plans to procure additional supplies of the antiviral COVID-19 drug Paxlovid from Pfizer.
While Paxlovid is hard to get hold of, the government plans to procure at least 100,000 more courses, Chen told a legislative committee meeting, adding that negotiations with Pfizer were ongoing.
Earlier this year, Taiwan signed a deal with Pfizer to procure 20,000 courses of Paxlovid, with the first batch — 3,200 courses — arriving on Jan. 27, Chen said, adding that about 15,000 courses have yet to be delivered.
Taiwan has ordered a combined total of 25,000 courses of Paxlovid and Molnupiravir from drugmaker Merck, he added.
The CECC is to hold discussions next week on guidelines for people with light symptoms to quarantine at home, Chen said.
There are several issues that need to be addressed before such a policy can be implemented, he said, citing as an example how patients can receive appropriate care during home quarantine.
Although Taiwan has a smart healthcare platform in place, providing remote health services on a large scale is an issue, he said.
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