The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Saturday said that it has a series of response measures planned in case COVID-19 begins to spread in communities.
The CECC’s four-part prevention plan is based on Taiwan’s experience of dealing with the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, Department of Medical Affairs Director-General Shih Chung-liang (石崇良) said.
The first part of the plan would focus on prevention efforts, as any community-level transmission would cause a sudden spike in the number of confirmed cases, he said, offering no additional details.
In the second part, the CECC would introduce new rules to minimize the risk of infection among healthcare workers, Shih said.
Citing his experience as an emergency room doctor at National Taiwan University Hospital during the SARS outbreak, Shih said the medical staff were split into two teams that alternated every two weeks.
That way, an entire team could be quarantined for two weeks without the risk of infecting their colleagues, he said.
If the COVID-19 outbreak reaches a level of urgency similar to the SARS epidemic, medical staff would again be split into teams, and their movements within the hospital would be limited to minimize contact with patients, he said.
Third, medical resources would be allocated to ensure they reach the people who need them the most, Shih said.
The country’s 1,100 negative-pressure isolation units are at 60 percent capacity, Shih said, adding that they are available for anyone who contracts COVID-19 and for those being tested for the virus based on factors such as their travel history.
However, if a community-level outbreak were to occur, demand for those units would increase and patients would be treated at other medical institutions, depending on the severity of their symptoms, he said.
Hospitals would be selected on the basis of their “emergency responsibility levels” — a set of standards that regulate the types of emergency services hospitals can provide, based on their staffing levels and technical capabilities, Shih said.
The fourth aspect of the plan involves reducing the number of people seeking non-essential medical treatment, Shih said.
In terms of implementation, Shih said that the CECC would discuss the measures with public health experts next week and would start working with medical institutions once a consensus has been reached.
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