Amid doubts caused by the relatively low number of COVID-19 tests conducted in Taiwan, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) has defended the nation’s practices, saying that large volumes of tests are only needed when sources of infection cannot be traced.
As of Wednesday last week, Taiwan had conducted 20,014 tests for the novel coronavirus, compared with 307,024 by South Korea, raising questions over whether Taiwan’s testing has been aggressive enough.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center, on Saturday last week rejected a call to conduct more COVID-19 testing, as many people have requested to be tested at their own expense.
He said that such a practice could increase the number of false negative results.
More testing “might not only not help efforts to stem the outbreak, it could even create a quarantine loophole,” Chen Shih-chung said, adding that those with false negative results could move about without taking precautions, thinking that they are free of the virus, while infecting others.
Chen Chien-jen, an epidemiologist by training, on Monday said on Facebook that the prevalence of the novel coronavirus in Taiwan is less than one per 100,000 people, and that “only a few cases have unknown sources.”
As such, the government has concentrated its testing on those who have come in contact with infected patients and those categorized as highly vulnerable to COVID-19, he said.
“Such a practice guarantees that the tests are proper and efficient, and in line with cost-benefit principles,” the vice president said.
In addition, he provided data from 13 nations that have conducted at least 15,000 tests on their volume of testing, the number of positive cases found and the prevalence of the disease in their populations.
The figures generally showed that “the lower the rate of positive tests, the broader the coverage of tests of potentially infected people,” Chen Chien-jen.
Of the 13 nations, Taiwan had five positive results for every 1,000 tests conducted, trailing only the United Arab Emirates at 0.8 positive results per 1,000 tests and Russia with 1.2 positive results per 1,000 tests, he said.
Taiwan had 0.45 infections per 100,000 people, the second-lowest ratio after Russia’s 0.14 infections per 100,000, he added.
However, Chen Chien-jen acknowledged that the correlation between positive test rates and infection rates per 100,000 people was not absolute, citing statistics from France, Belgium and South Korea, where there were about 16 infections per 100,000 people, but their positive test rates varied greatly.
While South Korea saw 27.9 positive results per 1,000 tests, Belgium reported 80.9 positive results per 1,000 tests and France 167.4 positives per 1,000 tests.
The figures suggest that South Korea and Belgium conducted more tests on people who were not infected, while France tested more people who were infected, Chen Chien-jen said.
The center said that COVID-19 tests are being conducted on “high-risk” subjects, divided into two groups: those who have come in contact with foreigners who had respiratory symptoms and a fever; and people with pneumonia or who have a fever and respiratory symptoms after returning from countries for which the highest level of travel advisory has been issued.
DISTRUST WARRANTED? The WHO is under China’s control and has become a useless organization, while data from China cannot be trusted, a Control Yuan member said China’s demand that the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, Hubei Province, not be referred to with names like the “Wuhan pneumonia” betrays its lack of confidence in itself, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) told lawmakers yesterday. Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Yi-yu (蔡易餘) asked Su, during a interpellation at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, for his view on China’s attempts to redeem its national image in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included China’s efforts to “bleach” its image, including having WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus publicly praise its handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and thanking it for buying time
TOO TIRED: Investigators found that the pilot’s lack of alertness could be attributed to a lack of sleep the previous night, when he had slept with his child It was a copilot’s inappropriate operation of the aircraft and the pilot’s insufficient alertness that led to a hard landing of a China Airlines cargo flight on Dec. 13, 2018, the Taiwan Transportation Safety Board said yesterday. Flight CI6844, a Boeing 747-409 which departed from Hong Kong International Airport, landed on the pre-threshold area of runway L5 at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, about 21m before the head of the runway, an investigation report said. The hard landing damaged three runway lights, but none of the personnel on board sustained any injuries, the report said. When approaching the runway, the copilot failed to maintain
REPEAT OFFENDER: The man went outside for exercise on Wednesday and then left his home on Saturday with his girlfriend, officials said A New Taipei City man has been fined NT$400,000 (US$13,221) and ordered into government quarantine after breaking home quarantine for a second time on Saturday. The 25-year-old man, surnamed Chen (陳) returned to Taiwan on Sunday last week and was ordered to home quarantine until Sunday. He was seen leaving his home on a scooter with his girlfriend on Saturday, three days after he was fined NT$200,000 for going outside to exercise, police said. Chen has now been placed in a quarantine center arranged by the district office and health center of the district where he lives, police said. Police warned the public
Taipei residents who stay at hotels in the city during their 14-day mandatory quarantine period are eligible to apply for the city’s NT$7,000 subsidy, with online applications to be launched next week. Taipei Deputy Mayor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) on Monday said Taipei residents who have COVID-19 Health Declaration and Home Quarantine Notice dated after March 19 and a quarantine hotel receipt for the dates covered by the quarantine period, would be eligible for the subsidy. The Taipei City Government on Sunday told the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) that so many city residents are under home quarantine that about 90 percent of