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Taiwan military vessels to be equipped with COVID-19 tests

ROC Central News Agency

05/03/2020 08:35 PM

Taipei, May 3 (CNA) Taiwan's military vessels will soon be equipped with quick Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, a method for rapidly diagnosing COVID-19, to prevent cluster spreading of the coronavirus, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Sunday.

Chen, who also heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), made the announcement at a daily press briefing, following a recent cluster infection on board the Panshi Fast Combat Support Ship, part of a flotilla that carried out a goodwill mission to diplomatic ally Palau in March.

"After discussions with the defense ministry, we have decided to provide military ships with quick PCR tests," Chen said, adding that it is difficult to detect the virus on a long-range mission, especially without the necessary equipment.

More than 30 sailors from the Panshi tested positive for the coronavirus, several days after returning home and being allowed to disembark, sparking public fear of community infection.

Although some sailors developed a fever during the voyage, military doctors on the ship were unable to determine whether they had contracted the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) due to a lack of test kits.

Vice Defense Minister Chang Che-ping (張哲平) said in addition to military ships, strategic military bases and harbors will also be equipped with the quick COVID-19 testing kits to screen soldiers before they are sent on missions.

The procurement of these kits as recommended by the CECC will take place soon, Chang said.

According to medical personnel in the military, results can be shown in about two hours with quick PCR tests. However, the downside of such kits is lower reliability compared with standard-type test kits, which take four to five hours to deliver results.

Meanwhile, Chen announced at the same press event that Taiwan's remote towns and outlying islands that do not have laboratories will also be provided with PCR tests to help them fight the coronavirus more effectively.

(By Chang Ming-shuan, Chang Hsiung-feng, Matt Yu and Emerson Lim)


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