Taiwan to replace throat swabs with new saliva test for coronavirus

More comfortable saliva-based test will also ease burden on medical workers at airports

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Medical worker taking sample from passenger at Taoyuan International Airport. 

Medical worker taking sample from passenger at Taoyuan International Airport.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced on Sunday (Aug. 30) that a new and less unpleasant way to test for coronavirus will replace the traditional throat swabs at the country's airports beginning Tuesday (Sept. 1).

Currently, medical workers need to push a pencil-length swab to the very back of recipients' nasal passages to test for the novel coronavirus, which many find uncomfortable. More manpower is also required for this type of test.

CECC Spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that throat swabs and saliva tests were conducted simultaneously on 1,226 passengers arriving at Taiwan's airports from July 2 to Aug. 24. Of the 24 virus-carriers identified that day, both tests identified the same 12, but salivaomics detected more of the remaining positive cases than the throat swabs, leading to the change in testing procedures.

Chuang said that under the new test, passengers will be asked to sanitize both hands while wearing a mask before they open up the test kit box. Recipients will be asked to cough with their mouths closed and keep them closed for one minute, resulting in the accumulation of saliva, before spitting into the box.

The last step is to properly seal and sanitize the box before handing it to inspection personnel.

The 10-step saliva-based process will require far fewer medical professionals to carry out testing, minimizing the chances of exposure, he added. Inspection workers will only be on hand to assist the elderly and children and to ensure the process goes smoothly.