At least two more months needed to contain COVID-19 outbreak: VP

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁)/CNA file photo

TAIPEI (CNA) — It will take at least another two months to contain the surging new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak worldwide, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) predicted during an exclusive interview with CNA on Tuesday.

One of the reasons is that some patients exhibit few symptoms or are asymptomatic. They are not aware of being infected and so spread the virus to people around them unknowingly, Chen said.

Another reason is although drastic measures taken by governments around the world will help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the ability of governments to control the outbreak differs, he added.

“Some suggest the outbreak can be contained before the end of April, I think that is too optimistic,” he said.

Chen, an epidemiologist and former health minister, also revealed that a reliable rapid test for the new coronavirus being developed by Taiwan will hopefully be available in three months.

At that time, it will be possible to identify COVID-19 patients quickly, allowing the government to take prompt action in isolating them and prevent further spread of the coronavirus, he said.

A vaccine for the respiratory disease can hopefully be developed in six months, Chen said. However, he added, government approval for its use would take a little longer, probably one year to 18 months, because it has to be tested on healthy people.

Whether COVID-19 reoccurs in particular seasons, like influenza, also needs to be observed, he said.

It is difficult to predict when the world will recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, as governments have different abilities in handling the crisis, Chen said.

However, one thing for sure is that the negative effects of the outbreak will be far worse than that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, because of its highly infectious nature, Chen said.