TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Friday (Dec. 24) announced that it will be fining Academia Sinica up to NT$150,000 (US$5,400) after the lack of proper protective equipment and inspections led to a COVID infection at a level P3 (Biosafety Level-3) laboratory.
On Sunday (Dec. 19), Academia Sinica submitted a report to the CECC on the laboratory-acquired infection (LAI) listing three ways a research assistant had become infected with COVID. During a press conference on Friday, CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced that an investigative team of biosafety experts held a meeting on Thursday (Dec. 23) to review the report.
Chen said that at the meeting, the experts determined that the main reason for the infection at Academia Sinica was that the P3 laboratory personnel did not wear Level C personal protective equipment (PPE) as required when conducting experiments, such as one-piece protective clothing, N95 masks, double layers of gloves, goggles, and shoe covers. When putting on and taking off PPE, the staff failed to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the laboratory.
Secondly, the Academia Sinica's Institutional Biosafety Committee did not implement annual internal audits in accordance with the Regulations Governing Management of Infectious Biological Materials (感染性生物材料管理辦法). The institution also failed to track the completion of relevant training assessments for new laboratory personnel.
Chen pointed out that in the wake of these acts of negligence, Academia Sinica must strengthen the education and training of laboratory personnel, implement a post-training assessment mechanism, and conduct physical training exercises to confirm personnel's awareness of the proper procedures for putting on and removing PPE.
The CECC head said that since there are still some details of the investigation that have yet to be clarified, Academia Sinica will be asked to provide the investigation team with digital records of laboratory staff entering and leaving the laboratory, as well as surveillance camera footage and work logs.
After the investigation team has established the facts in the case, it will complete a final investigation report, which will be presented to the public.
Chen explained that for failing to comply with Regulations Governing Management of Infectious Biological Materials, Academia Sinica will be penalized in accordance with Article 34 and Article 69 of the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法) and will face fines up to NT$150,000.