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Taiwan sees higher-than-expected COVID positive rate as new border rules kick in

10% of passengers on Tuesday's first long-haul flight found to have COVID-19, worrying officials

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COVID testing equipment at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. (CNA)

COVID testing equipment at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. (CNA)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — COVID-19 was detected among nearly 10% of the passengers on the first long-haul flight to arrive in Taiwan on Tuesday (Jan. 11) as a new measure to intercept cases at the airport kicked in.

Four of the 41 passengers on the China Airlines flight arriving from Sydney received a positive result from their COVID PCR test, a higher rate than expected, noted Victor Wang (王必勝), who heads a command post at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport tasked with containing a fresh Omicron outbreak.

Arrivals were instructed to pick up testing kits and undergo the screening at a designated zone, after which they awaited their results in their seats. The process took more than two hours, which Wang promised adjustments, per CNA.

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced Monday (Jan. 10) that all arrivals on long-haul flights would be required to take a COVID PCR test at airports starting Tuesday and that those who tested positive would be directly transported to a hospital. The CECC defines "long-haul" flights as those from Europe, the U.S., the Middle East, New Zealand, and Australia.

The authorities will continue reviewing the policy, and Wang suggested many parts of it still need recalibrating. Problems encountered on the first day include earlier-than-expected arrivals and inadequate testing capacity, which Wang believes should be quadrupled.

Tuesday will see a total of eight incoming long-haul flights from Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Australia, Istanbul, and Dubai. Around 700 passengers will be screened.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications has estimated arrivals will peak between Jan. 3 and 16, prior to the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts on Jan. 29.

Taiwan sees higher-than-expected COVID positive rate as new border rules kick in
Passengers wait for their turn to get COVID PCR test. (CNA)

Taiwan sees higher-than-expected COVID positive rate as new border rules kick in
Personnel work on PCR testing at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. (CNA photo)