《TAIPEI TIMES》 COVID-19 contact tracing expansion for south urged
A worker at the Taipei Children’s Amusement Park in Shilin District yesterday disinfects a carousel in preparation for today’s conditional reopening. Photo: CNA
By Yang Yuan-ting, Yang Mien-chieh and Wu Liang-yi / Staff reporters
Contact tracing for COVID-19 cases in southern Taiwan should be expanded to between seven and 10 days, as people there tend to have more interpersonal interactions, a health expert said on Friday.
Chinese Medical University Hospital deputy superintendent Hwang Kao-pin （黃高彬） made the remarks regarding a COVID-19 cluster at a workplace in Chiayi County, with 11 cases confirmed by the Central Epidemic Command Center （CECC） on Friday, but no new cases reported yesterday.
To curb the spread of the virus in the south, local health authorities should trace all contacts that a person with COVID-19 had during seven to 10 days before the onset of symptoms, compared with the current practice of limiting contact tracing to three days.
One case in the Chiayi cluster is a man who might have contracted the virus while staying in Taipei and whose antibody levels suggested that he had been infectious for quite a while, Hwang said, citing the CECC.
To curb the cluster, health authorities should increase contact tracing and require residents near the infection hot spot to stay at home for a while, except for emergency cases, he said.
Similar measures have proved effective in curbing a cluster in Pingtung County in June, he added.
Separately yesterday, Tony Chen （陳秀熙）, a professor in National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health, said that the Chiayi cluster did not occur because the CECC on Tuesday lowered a nationwide pandemic alert from level 3 to level 2.
The cluster is likely connected to earlier transmission chains involving SARS-CoV-2’s Alpha variant, Chen said.
The cluster is likely controllable if the government quickly implements measures to curb its spread, including targeted COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, Chen said, adding that viral genome sequencing should be conducted to clarify its origin.
Small COVID-19 clusters might occur from time to time, so people should continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands regularly, Chen said.
Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital deputy superintendent Chiu Cheng-hsun （邱政洵） said that the cluster’s likely source in Taipei shows that the COVID-19 situation is more serious in the north.
However, people in southern Taiwan should not let their guard down, even if there are no recently reported cases in their area, Chiu said, adding that the virus might travel quickly across Taiwan.