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Mayor: Screening an Alternative to Isolation for Selected Groups

Overview of "Screening Replacing Isolation" policyDuring the COVID update press conference on April 26, Mayor Ko Wen-je announced that Taipei City’s new “Screening Replaces Isolation” approach is available for individuals belonging to categories 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 under the Government-funded COVIID-19 Vaccine priority group classification.
 
The mayor pointed out that the number of new domestic cases for the country on April 26 has reached 6,295; roughly 1,302 patients among the new cases belong to Taipei City. The municipality is no exception to the spike in positive cases nationwide. Among the 12 administrative districts in Taipei, 8 reported over 100 cases in a day.
 
Ko expressed his concern over the trend of new cases observed at the 7 community screening stations which offer free PCR test. With more and more people showing up for screening, the positive rate has risen from 0.1% to 7.4%. The fortunate part is that high vaccination rate has been effective in keeping hospital beds available. While the wards for underage patients may be a bit crowded, the influx of patients in the adult wards remained stable. Currently, the majority of cases is concentrated in Greater Taipei and northern Taiwan, while the trend in central and southern Taiwan is comparatively not as serious.
 
He noted that the biggest challenge lies with the abrupt announcement of the “3+4” isolation policy. According to statistics, the number of people under home isolation as of noon on April 25 has already exceeded 20,000. As the outbreak continue, the number is likely to climb rapidly. This is why New Taipei City is eager to test the “Screening Replaces Isolation” approach, since contact-tracing under existing guidelines may no longer be manageable with such daunting figures. The severe administrative backlog can be seen from the growing number of people who have completed the required isolation, but yet to receive their isolation notice.
 
Mayor Ko added that the number of people isolated will quickly exceed today’s 20,000. This warrants a rethinking of pandemic prevention measures to refocus on severe cases. The priority now is to ensure that the utilization of medical resources can be controlled – at least making sure that hospital beds are still available. If worse comes to worst, lowering activities citywide may be an option. While people still remain optimistic, it is necessary to explain the current pandemic prevention policies on a daily basis to the public and remind them to remain alert, as the coming week may be important in deciding future developments.
 
Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan introduced the voluntary online form system for confirmed COVID patients. Given the growing number of complaints from residents who tested positive at hospitals but have yet to receive further notice from health authorities due to serious backlogging, she explained that Taipei City Hospital will notify individuals testing positive upon receiving their PCR test results. Those who receive the notice are advised to visit the website to enter information such as name, age, close contacts, and contracted date. This ensures that they receive timely response from the district care centers and Department of Health. However, she reminds the public that this platform is for Taipei City’s confirmed patients only.
 
Regarding the policy on vaccines for children between the age of 6 and 11, Deputy Mayor Tsai Ping-kun reiterated that the city government is making necessary preparations and have conducted a survey among schools. The replies from 95 schools indicated that roughly 48.5% of those surveyed expressed their support for the vaccine policy. Stage 2 of the survey will target parents. The city government expects to begin vaccine administration for the age group starting next week.
 
As for how schools will implement the “3+4” isolation policy, he went over the guidelines: For a class with 1 or more confirmed case(s), in-person lessons will be suspended for 7 days. If there are close contacts and confirmed cases in either (1) more than one-third of the total classes, or (2) more than 10 classes at the school, the entire school will be cancelled for 3 to 5 days. For kindergartens, a class with one or more confirm cases(s) will have physical classes suspended for 7 days (the period may be reduced to 5 days pending contact-tracing results).