The Central Epidemic Command Center on Monday said that it was mulling implementing rapid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at COVID-19 hotspots nationwide to eliminate diagnosis delays.
The purpose would be to improve the efficiency of testing and reduce the waiting time for the results, the center said.
Since a domestic COVID-19 outbreak began last month, the government has been setting up numerous testing sites at hotspots, where people undergo not only a rapid antigen test, but also a PCR test, as the latter remains the standard for confirming COVID-19 cases.
Unlike PCR tests, which look for traces of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in a patient’s mucus, rapid antigen tests are used to detect the protein of the virus.
Anyone who receives a positive result from a rapid antigen test is sent to either a hospital, government quarantine center or asked to quarantine at home while they wait for a PCR test result.
Those who receive a negative rapid antigen test result are asked to monitor their health while waiting for their PCR test result.
The center on Monday said that it was planning to use rapid PCR tests when people test positive in a rapid antigen test.
Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the center’s medical response division, said results of a rapid PCR test can be provided in about 20 minutes, significantly quicker that the three-and-a-half hours required by a standard PCR test.
Both methods involve using a nasal swab to collect mucus to determine whether SARS-CoV-2 is present. The only difference is the time it takes to provide a result, he said.
Rapid PCR tests were first used at Taoyuan General Hospital when Taiwan launched a “travel bubble” with Palau in April, he added.
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