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Homeland Security

Gov't considering mandatory virus tests for certain travelers

ROC Central News Agency

04/15/2020 02:18 PM

Taipei, April 15 (CNA) Although the COVID-19 coronavirus is currently at a "controllable" level in Taiwan, precluding the need for universal testing, the government is considering mandating tests for all travelers returning from certain high risk locations overseas, Deputy Health Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) said Wednesday.

During a hearing at the Legislative Yuan, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Su Chiao-hui (蘇巧慧) asked Hsueh why the government did not take advantage of the recent lull in new cases to begin testing for the virus on a larger scale in Taiwan.

In response, Hsueh said universal testing, which he likened to "fishing with a net," is usually only necessary when a virus is spreading uncontrollably through communities.

Another disadvantage of universal testing is that it causes people to let their guard down, which, in cases where tests show "false negative" results, can create the risk of community transmission, Hsueh said.

However, the government is currently discussing mandatory COVID-19 testing for travelers returning from certain high-risk countries, Hsueh said, without indicating when such a policy could be implemented or to which countries it would apply.

Based on Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) statistics, Taiwan likely does not have the capacity to carry out a large-scale testing program at this time.

Currently, the country has expanded testing capacity to 34 facilities that process COVID-19 tests -- 16 in the north, 10 in the south, seven in central Taiwan and one on the east coast -- with a maximum capacity of 3,800 tests per day.

Testing arriving travelers, however, could prove a more achievable target, given the huge reduction in air traffic in recent weeks.

According to figures from Taoyuan International Airport -- which is typically the country's busiest -- only 820 arriving commercial travelers are expected on Wednesday.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Matthew Mazzetta)

Enditem/AW



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