Taiwan stands firm on 2019-nCoV patients’ privacy, no stigmatizing

Two people in masks walk past the national flag of Taiwan on Feb. 10, 2020. (CNA)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) remained firm on Monday on not releasing neighborhood details of confirmed 2019-nCoV cases in Taiwan despite some calls for transparency.

In a more emotional call than a legal one, CECC Chief Commander Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) asked nationals to imagine what the society would be like if the situation continues to worsen.

“People will refrain from reporting to health authorities in fear of stigmatizing its family,” Chen said, highlighting how the revelation of private information of confirmed cases could hamper epidemic prevention work.

The neighborhood in which a family of four who have been found infected by the 2019-nCoV lived was released online earlier Monday.

This incited debate nationwide as to whether privacy triumphs residents’ right to health amid the outbreak.

Last week, the government sent out a text to residents which provided the time and locations of people on board the Diamond Princess Cruise when they visited Taiwan.

A screen-grab shows an alert message from the government on Feb. 7, 2020. (Courtesy of Mimi Hsin Hsuan Sun)
A screen-grab shows an alert message from the government on Feb. 7, 2020. (Courtesy of Mimi Hsin Hsuan Sun)

Some criticized it as “double standards” for not releasing details of the whereabouts of the family.

In response, Chen said that the CECC will only release the details when it is unclear with whom 2019-nCoV patient have been contact.

For cases like the family of four who contracted the virus after traveling to Italy with layovers in Hong Kong, Chen reassured the public that those who were in close contact with them have been put under mandatory quarantine, and that the screening process met high standards.

Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR) agreed with the CECC’s current policy on this topic, its spokesperson Wang Si (王曦) told The China Post.

Releasing personal details of a novel coronavirus patient is a violation against the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法), punishable by NT$10,000 (US$332) to NT$150,000 (US$4,984) in fines, Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC,疾管署) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said.

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