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Government to distribute free COVID rapid tests to economically disadvantaged groups, prevent severe cases in children

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At the Cabinet's weekly meeting Thursday, Premier Su Tseng-chang received a Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) briefing on the latest COVID-19 developments and responses. With domestic infections reaching a plateau, the government's top priority remains conserving the capacity of the health care system. The premier instructed the MOHW to support local governments in allocating medical resources, focus efforts on diagnosing and treating moderate and severe patients, and do more to prevent severe cases among children. The ministry will also distribute free rapid test kits to low- and lower-middle-income families and long-term care facility residents, benefiting nearly 800,000 people and alleviating their economic burdens.

To reduce the large amount of medical personnel and resources devoted to PCR testing, starting Thursday, any individual whose positive rapid test result is verified by a physician will be considered a confirmed case. Physicians can also prescribe antiviral drugs depending on the person's medical needs. In Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung and Taoyuan cities, the central government has set up 12 mass testing sites that will also be converted to "three-in-one stations," where people with proof of positive rapid test results can receive a diagnosis, be registered as a positive case, and pick up medication.

To assist the admission and treatment of children with moderate or severe symptoms, the government has further expanded "green channel" medical services exclusively dedicated to children, as well as the capacity of hospitals responsible for emergency treatment of severe cases. The government continues to increase the availability of hospital beds for children, and requests that local governments require hospitals and clinics under their jurisdiction to promptly admit and treat child patients with relevant symptoms.

The government's supply of vaccines procured for both children and adults remains sufficient. Currently, about 250,000 elementary school students have already received children's doses of the Moderna vaccine. Meanwhile, a shipment of 770,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses for children arrived last week, with another 330,000 doses expected to arrive Monday.

Rapid tests are now conveniently available for people to purchase, the premier continued, whether through the name-based rationing system at pharmacies or through eight major retail outlets. The government will also continue providing rapid tests to schools and preschools at all levels in every city and county, with 600,000 tests to be distributed Friday for a cumulative total of 2.7 million tests distributed. In addition, the government will be providing five free rapid tests to every member of a low- or lower-middle-income household, as well as three rapid tests to every resident of a long-term care facility. It is estimated that this will benefit nearly 800,000 individuals, reducing the burden placed on economically disadvantaged households and long-term care facilities.

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