Premier Su Tseng-chang on Thursday received a Ministry of Health and Welfare briefing on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and related public health measures. Taiwan's current model of COVID management balances normal life, active disease prevention and steady lifting of restrictions, the premier said. Going forward, the government will monitor changes in the pandemic situation to respond flexibly as needed, and will continue readying sufficient supplies of vaccines, rapid tests, medicine, patient beds and quarantine hotels. Together, we will steadily brave the challenge of the pandemic, the premier said.
At this current stage, although domestic cases have increased rapidly as expected, nearly 99.8% of cases are mild or asymptomatic, the premier said. Compared with nearby Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea where mortality rates for confirmed cases have reached as high as eight out of 1,000, Taiwan's mortality rate of two out of 10,000 is relatively low and indicates that the government's COVID response measures have had a definite effect.
To adapt to the evolving pandemic situation, quarantine requirements for confirmed cases were changed on Sunday to "7+7" days (seven days of home quarantine followed by seven days of self-health management), and close contacts of a confirmed case have been redefined as friends or relatives living in the same residence. To reduce the testing burden on hospitals, starting Thursday, an individual undergoing home isolation, home quarantine or self-initiated epidemic prevention only needs to test positive with a COVID-19 rapid test and confirm that test result with medical personnel to be counted as a confirmed case. Doctors can also prescribe medication after an assessment without needing to wait for PCR test results. In addition, cities and counties hit severely by the pandemic are setting up additional community screening stations and further expanding accommodations at enhanced quarantine hotels.
Supermarkets, drugstores and the four major convenience store chains in Taipei, New Taipei, Keelung and Taoyuan have begun selling rapid self-test kits Monday. As for the kits sold at pharmacies under the real-name rationing scheme, the government will also expedite purchases through different supply channels to increase the distribution capacity of the pharmacies.
Regarding vaccines, the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (1.85 million doses total) purchased by the government this year has arrived, and will primarily be used as booster shots for the 12-17 age group. A batch of 770,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses for children is also expected to arrive soon to help raise the nation's vaccination rate.
Taiwan is now entering the final and most critical stage of the pandemic, the premier said. He asked for everyone's cooperation in waging this battle so that the nation can resume its much-desired normal life and lift all COVID restrictions.