Taiwan healthcare system would collapse under general coronavirus screening: Minister

Changhua County health chief has halted controversial screening program

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Changhua health chief Yeh Yen-po said Saturday Aug. 22 he had halted a coronavirus screening program 

Changhua health chief Yeh Yen-po said Saturday Aug. 22 he had halted a coronavirus screening program  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — General testing of all arrivals for the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) will cost NT$800 million (US$27.1 million) and cause the collapse of Taiwan’s health system, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) cautioned Saturday (Aug. 22).

He was responding to the Changhua County Public Health Bureau's undisclosed virus screenings of asymptomatic individuals, which has touched off a debate between proponents and critics of more general testing campaigns. The county bureau said later Saturday that it had received a notice from the central government and had stopped its screening program, CNA reported.

The estimated cost of the general border testing was based on the fact that 249,000 people had entered Taiwan since Jan. 1, said Chen, who also heads the country’s main anti-coronavirus taskforce, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

Based on the official statistics and on the data regarding the virus pandemic, such generalized screening was likely to produce 12,475 false positives, leading Chen to wonder if all those people had to be quarantined and hospitalized, the Liberty Times reported.

The false cases would also trigger wider repercussions, with fellow passengers on incoming flights and cabin crew also facing quarantine, resulting in eventually more than 100,000 people forced into isolation, Chen said.

As hospitals were potentially dangerous places where cross-infections were likely to happen, a generalized testing campaign with false positives might lead to even more real infections in society at large through domestic clusters, overwhelming the healthcare system, according to the minister.