Seventeen of the 217 passengers who arrived on long-haul at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport yesterday morning tested positive for COVID-19, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said, adding that the positivity rate was higher than expected.
Yesterday was the first day that the government enforced stricter health guidelines for the testing of passengers arriving on long-haul flights. They must undergo a polymerase chain reaction test immediately after arriving at the nation’s international airports. Those who test positive are sent directly to hospitals to avoid spreading the virus to people working in and around the airports and at quarantine hotels.
Victor Wang (王必勝), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division and the center’s on-site commander at the Taoyuan airport, said that the 217 passengers arrived on five flights: one from Seattle, three from Los Angeles and one from Sydney.
Of the 17 infected passengers, four arrived from Sydney and 13 arrived on the three flights from Los Angeles, while the passengers from Seattle all tested negative, he said.
The total COVID-19 positivity rate among all passengers was 6.7 percent, which was “higher than we had imagined,” Wang said.
The center’s on-site personnel made adjustments to speed up tests after it took them about two hours to screen samples gathered from passengers on the first flight that arrived in the morning, Wang said.
“We experienced delays when screening the samples gathered from the passengers on the first flight, but we made a quick adjustment for flights arriving afterward,” Wang said.
“We want passengers who test negative to leave the boarding gates in an hour and proceed to immigration and customs. For those who test positive, we would try to reduce their waiting time, although it is difficult to control the time needed to process their samples,” he said.
As only 20 machines were available to process samples yesterday, Wang said the center would try to add new machines in the next few days to reduce waiting time for passengers.
About 4,200 passengers are expected to arrive daily from Thursday to Saturday for the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on Jan. 31, Wang said, adding that the government would ensure that there are sufficient medical personnel at the Taoyuan airport to meet demand.
“We are also expecting more positive cases in the next few days, and hospitals in Taoyuan and nearby cities and counties are expected to accept COVID-19 patients,” he said.
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