Post-holiday disease-monitoring key to prevent further infections

TAIPEI (CNA) — Close attention is required as to how COVID-19 coronavirus infection will unfold in the coming two weeks to determine if Taiwan is under increasing threat of major community infections after the just-concluded Tomb Sweeping Festival, health experts said Monday.

Chen Hsiu-hsi (陳秀熙), vice dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health (NTUCPH), said in a weekly disease briefing that it will become clearer after the two-week incubation period to learn about the impact of the travel surge during the April 2-5 holiday period.

According to a NTUCPH analysis, he said, chances for community infections should be low if Taiwan sees no more than 20 indigenous cases every week, with the proportion of indigenous to imported cases not exceeding 12 percent.

Earlier in the day, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that holidaymakers who visited crowded scenic spots or venues in Taiwan during the festival should practice self-health management for 14 days and avoid public spaces.

In addition, those people should work at home if possible, practice proper social distancing and wear surgical masks when going out, the CECC said.

Chen said that as long as the public properly follows current disease control measures, including home quarantine, an increase in infections will be unlikely.

However, he predicted that there will be about 10-13 new indigenous cases in the coming two weeks.

Meanwhile, NTUCPH Dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權) suggested again that the government should expand COVID-19 testing to more effectively track infection numbers.

Chan said there are various groups of people who should be given priority for such testing — vulnerable groups such as patients with serious disease in hospital or senior citizens in nursing homes.

There are also people at higher risk whose jobs require them to come into contact with many people, such as drivers, delivery service operators and convenience store workers, he said.

Finally, the government should test people who have connections with confirmed cases and people in their regions, Chan said.

Since there have been fewer travelers to Taiwan since the country started to bar entry of foreign nationals on March 19, the government may consider testing all inbound travelers to make sure no possible infections are overlooked, he said.

Chan stressed that for now, it is most important for the public to wear masks, wash their hands frequently, keep social distancing and avoid group activities.

“These disease controls are not sacrifices, but are meant to protect others and ourselves, something that we should be proud of,” he said.