Anyone in Taiwan can now pay to be tested for the novel coronavirus, as the nation now has adequate testing capacity, the Central Epidemic Command Center said.
The announcement yesterday followed a decision on Saturday last week to offer self-paid testing to people traveling abroad, as many countries require a negative test result before admitting foreigners.
Self-paid testing was previously available only to Taiwanese making emergency visits to countries in Southeast Asia, China or Macau.
People can pay to be tested once every three months at a cost to be determined by hospitals, the center said.
The center yesterday reported one new case of COVID-19, a man in his 20s who returned from Russia on Tuesday.
The man was one of 96 people — 94 Taiwanese and two Russian spouses — who flew from Russia to Japan’s Narita International Airport on a Japan Airlines charter flight before taking another flight to Taiwan, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Although he reported symptoms including a sore throat, loss of smell and fatigue upon arrival in Taiwan, the man’s first test returned only a slightly positive response that could be interpreted as negative, but his second test was positive, the center said.
As of yesterday, Taiwan recorded 442 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including seven fatalities, with 420 patients having been discharged from isolation after treatment, center data showed.
In related news, several deep-sea fishing vessels are expected to return to Taiwan to unload cargo and take on supplies, a transition period when the season for catching squid in the Atlantic ends and that for catching saury in the western North Pacific begins.
The fishing vessel Jyi Yang (佶洋) was the first to return to Kaohsiung’s Cianjhen Fishing Port (前鎮漁港) yesterday morning, with Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜), Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥) and other officials on hand to inspect disease prevention procedures.
The vessel’s 52 crew members, including 47 foreign nationals, were sent to quarantine hotels after undergoing identity checks and basic disinfection, said Chen, who is deputy head of the center, at the center’s daily news briefing in Taipei yesterday afternoon.
The identity checks were conducted on board the ship by Coast Guard Administration personnel, Kaohsiung Department of Health officials assessed their health conditions and the National Immigration Agency issued temporary permits for the foreign crew, the Fisheries Agency said in a news release.
The entire process was smooth, Chen said, adding that nearly 4,050 fishers working in distant seas are expected to return in two batches by early July.
There are about 2,800 rooms at quarantine hotels nationwide, which would suffice for the returning fishers, Chen said, estimating that the daily maximum needed would be about 2,500 rooms.
Returning fishing vessel crews are another challenge for the government, although they are not as numerous as tourists at airports, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center.
Asked whether it was appropriate for Han to welcome the fishers by shaking their hands, Chen Shih-chung said that while extending a warm welcome is good, shaking hands or coming into close contact with those who need to be quarantined should be avoided.
Separately yesterday, the Taiwan Railways Administration and Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp said that food and beverages would be allowed on trains from Monday next week — ending a ban in place since early April.
People should still wear masks before and after eating, and practice social distancing, they said.
Additional reporting by CNA
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