People with no symptoms must have tested positive for COVID-19 using a rapid test to be eligible for a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday.
Many emergency rooms in Taipei and New Taipei City have been crowded with people waiting to receive a PCR test in the past few days.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, yesterday said five measures would be implemented to preserve the critical medical capacity at emergency rooms.
The center has asked local governments to set up additional community testing stations based on the COVID-19 situation in the area, and encouraged local clinics to assist in performing testing services to expand testing capacity, he said.
Hospitals with emergency rooms have been asked to open special outpatient clinics to assess whether people who have a fever or have tested positive for COVID-19 using a rapid test and have mild or no symptoms need a PCR test or treatment, he said.
“People who are asymptomatic must have tested positive with a rapid test at home before they receive a PCR test,” Chen said.
Hospitals have also been asked to launch a mechanism to reduce non-urgent services, and to redeploy staff to support those who are conducting COVID-19 testing and reporting, and managing hospital bed availability, he said.
The vacancy rate of hospital beds in designated COVID-19 hospital rooms and negative pressure isolation wards is 54.2 percent (4,179 beds), while it is 32.8 percent (2,354 beds) at centralized quarantine facilities and 33.6 percent (1,235 beds) at enhanced disease prevention hotels, he said.
Meanwhile, the CECC yesterday reported 17,801 new local COVID-19 cases and 57 imported cases.
Three deaths, 14 moderate cases and seven severe cases were confirmed.
Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division, said a woman in her 90s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 70s died.
They all had underlying health conditions and had received zero to two COVID-19 vaccine doses, he said.
Of the seven severe cases, one is an infant under the age of one, who has a neurological disorder.
She was taken to a clinic with a fever, but as she was not in contact with a confirmed case, she was not tested for COVID-19, Lo said.
However, the infant later had difficulty breathing and a hoarse voice, so she was taken to an emergency room for treatment, where she tested positive for COVID-19, Lo said, adding that she is on a ventilator and being treated in an intensive care unit.
Another severe case is a woman in her 20s, who has no underlying health conditions and had received a booster vaccine, Lo said, adding that she tested positive after seeking treatment for a fever and diarrhea last week.
The woman continued to experience abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea during home quarantine, so she sought treatment again on Friday, Lo said.
She was found to have low blood pressure, abnormal kidney function and had difficulty breathing, so she was put on a ventilator and admitted to an intensive care unit, he said.
The guidelines for distinguishing high-risk patients say that infants under the age of one, who have contracted COVID-19, should be hospitalized if they have a fever, as their immune systems have not yet fully matured and their condition could worsen very quickly, Lo said.
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