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[Level 3 COVID Alert] Mayor: Expand PCR Tests to Pinpoint Community Spread

Free PCR testing available at selected hospitalsDuring the pandemic update press conference at city hall on July 5, Mayor Ko Wen-je attributed the rise in recent cases of COVID-19 in Beitou to family clusters. As for the spike in confirmed cases at Zhongzheng District, he explained that city hall has established a task force and also requested borough chiefs in the district to create lists. The city government will consider its strategies to reduce the number of positive cases – or even “zeroing-out” – over the coming weeks.
 
Ko remarked that the decline in weekly positive cases have slowed down, pointing towards the presence of asymptomatic cases hidden in the community. The city government’s recent effort in expanding the scale of screening led to successfully discovery of positive cases, resulting in the quarantine of roughly 900 people a day.
 
Regarding the recent massive PCR testing conducted at local wholesale markets, the mayor reported that 69 positive cases were found among 13,520 individuals tested. Among the positive cases, 13 were found to have contracted COVID-19 but recovered – which explains the CT value exceeding 30. Among the confirmed cases at Huannan Public Market, 39 individuals have been assigned to quarantine hotels. As of the morning of July 5, 6 people have been transported to hospitals for medical attention and 17 individuals are showing symptoms such as headache and fever. A total of 16 people showed no symptoms.  
 
On the issue of market access control, after discussing with the central government, the city government have requested EasyCard Corporation to issue area-based membership cards. The special card will be linked with the data of designated individuals on the database of National Health Insurance (NHI) Administration to grant faster access to the market. However, market access for those from elsewhere will still require either ID or NHI card. Hopefully, the system can go live by July 15 through the collaboration between central and local governments.
 
As for the expansion of COVID-19 screenings, Ko said that the city government designated 7 hospitals in Taipei as PCR test venues: TCH Heping Branch, TCH Zhongxing Branch, TCH Renai Branch, TCH Yangming Branch, TCH Zhongxiao Branch, Guandu Hospital, and Wanfang Hospital.
 
For large scale operations involving residents in the thousands, city hall will arrange testing at appropriate venues such as school campuses. The mayor stressed that PCR test is the golden standard for identifying COVID-19 patients. With sufficient PCR test resources in place, the city government will rely primarily on PCR tests to achieve this objective. He lauded the quick response and innovativeness of Taiwan for securing massive rapid screening and PCR test resources in a mere month.
 
On the issue of vaccination, the mayor announced that elders above the age of 55 and indigenous people above the age of 55 – regardless of residency – can make reservations beginning July 6. While reservation are available through either calling or going online, Ko encourages the use of internet since it allows individuals to select their preferred time and venue, as well as requiring minimal manpower.
 
Ko also added that in addition to the aforementioned groups, bus drivers and MRT station staff will also be eligible for inoculation during this round, given that their work environment involves frequent contact with the general public.