Temporary COVID-19 testing stations are to be removed starting today, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, adding that people can still take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test at hospitals under certain conditions.
The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) on Monday issued a notice to local governments, informing them that the government subsidy for community COVID-19 testing stations would end today.
With PCR tests no longer required to diagnose COVID-19, the stations, which have been up for more than a year, can be removed, allowing healthcare workers and resources to return to hospitals, HPA Director-General Wu Chao-chun (吳昭軍) said.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is the CECC’s spokesperson, said that demand for PCR tests has greatly declined since the center on May 26 started allowing COVID-19 to be diagnosed based on a rapid test result.
Operating the stations requires significant personnel and resources, Chuang added.
CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy chief of the CECC’s medical response division, said that after the stations are removed, people can still get a government-funded PCR test upon arrival at airports, for contact tracing purposes and if suggested by a physician.
As for people who are asymptomatic or need a negative PCR test to travel abroad, they would need to get an out-of-pocket PCR test, he said, adding that the test costs about NT$3,000 to NT$4,000.
The CECC also reported 23,458 new local COVID-19 cases, 211 imported cases and 18 deaths related to the disease.
The local caseload is 0.7 percent higher than on Tuesday last week, but the total new cases for this week is expected to be about the same as last week, Chuang said, adding that the death count is the lowest in 89 days.
One of the deceased was an eight-month-old boy, who did not have any underlying health conditions, and died of sepsis caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection, pneumonia, acute respiratory distress and a collapsed lung, Lo said.
He said the boy is the first severe case found to have Pseudomonas aeruginosa and COVID-19 at the same time.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Monday passed a recommendation to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children aged six months to five years, Chuang said.
The vaccine is administered as a three-dose series of 3 micrograms per dose, he said, adding that the interval between the first and second doses is at least four weeks, and the second and third doses should be at least eight weeks apart.
Separately, Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) yesterday said that a ban on tour groups would be lifted once visitor visas are reinstated.
The national border would eventually be reopened, but as the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of SARS-CoV-2 are spreading, the CECC needs to observe their effects on the local COVID-19 situation, and would ease restrictions when the situation has been determined to be under control, he added.
Additional reporting by Chen Hsin-yu
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