Starting today, people under 40 years old who test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Taiwan and have mild or no symptoms would be sent to government-run quarantine centers instead of medical facilities, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday.
The CECC on Tuesday began implementing a new policy requiring travelers from Europe, the US, the Middle East, New Zealand and Australia to wait at the airport for the results of their mandatory COVID-19 tests
Those who tested positive were sent to the hospital for treatment and further testing, while those who tested negative were sent to either a quarantine hotel or government facility.
Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times
To reduce pressure on hospitals, mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 cases aged 20 to 39 would from tomorrow be sent to quarantine facilities, the center said.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that the number of imported cases is expected to rise over the coming days.
A total of 140 people with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 arrived in Taiwan over the past week, bringing the total number of such cases to 278, CECC data showed.
That set a weekly record of Omicron cases, surpassing the previous record of 79 recorded from Dec. 31 to Thursday last week, reflecting the growing global dominance of the variant.
Taiwan reported its first imported Omicron cases on Dec. 11.
Genome sequencing of imported COVID-19 cases between Jan. 1 and Thursday showed that 140 were Omicron infections and seven were Delta cases, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division, told a daily briefing.
Four of the Delta infections came from Turkey and three from Vietnam, he added.
To date, the nation has confirmed 317 Omicron cases (39 domestic and 278 imported) and 310 Delta cases (52 domestic and 258 imported), the CECC said.
Taiwan has reported 17,692 local and imported COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in early 2020.
Among last week’s imported Omicron cases, 81 came from the US and 59 were from 30 other countries, CECC data showed.
Among the 278 imported Omicron infections reported since Dec. 11, five were younger than five years old, two were aged five to 10, 10 were aged 10 to 20, 77 were in their 20s, 63 were in their 30s, 33 were in their 40s, 44 were in their 50s, 28 were in their 60s, and 16 were 70 or older, it showed.
The data also showed that 259 of the 278 cases were breakthrough infections, while four are still being investigated.
Lo said that 200 of the 278 cases tested positive at the airport, which shows that there is a high success rate in identifying cases upon arrival.
The remaining 78 cases were detected in quarantine hotels or centralized facilities, suggesting a low risk of the variant entering local communities, he added.
CECC data showed that 144 of the 278 cases showed no symptoms, while 134 had mild symptoms.
However, as most of the Omicron cases were fully vaccinated travelers, Taiwanese should get fully vaccinated to ensure that they do not develop serious symptoms should they get infected, Lo said.
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