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Taiwan to ease rules in COVID testing, prescriptions on May 18

Starting May 18, 4 categories of people need only take rapid antigen test

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment pill Paxlovid is seen in boxes, at Misericordia hospital in Grosseto, Italy, February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Jennif...

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) treatment pill Paxlovid is seen in boxes, at Misericordia hospital in Grosseto, Italy, February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Jennif...

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Starting on Wednesday (May 18), Taiwan will further expand the categories of people who can take a rapid antigen test instead of a PCR test, which will enable doctors to immediately prescribe medication to treat COVID.

On Thursday (May 12), a positive result from a rapid antigen test became enough to confirm an infection for people undergoing home isolation for case contact, ordinary home quarantine, and self-health monitoring. On Sunday (May 15), the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that the second phase of easing testing rules would be expanded to "severely ill and high-risk" individuals.

At a press conference on Monday (May 16), CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced that in order to reduce the risk of developing severe disease after being infected with COVID, people aged 65 and over with severe risk factors can use rapid antigen test results instead of a PCR test to confirm a COVID case. After a doctor confirms the results of the rapid antigen test and determines that medical treatment is necessary, the physician can prescribe Pfizer's Paxlovid antiviral medication.

Chen said that in order to expedite the prescription of antiviral drugs, starting on May 18, elderly patients aged 65 and over who tested positive with a home rapid antigen kit can bring the result to the nearest medical institution for on-site assessment and confirmation by physicians. Alternatively, they can use telemedicine or video conferencing to ask physicians online to assist in assessment and diagnosis.

He explained that based on the positive results of a rapid antigen test provided by the patient and following a clinical evaluation, a physician can determine whether a patient has been infected with COVID. If such a diagnosis has been made, Chen said that the doctor can then assess the efficacy of antiviral medication such as Paxlovid.

The physician can then issue a prescription after obtaining consent from the patient or their proxy after detailing the benefits and side effects of treatment. The patient's friends or relatives can then go to the community pharmacy or hospital to pick up the medication on their behalf.

Chen said that if it is too difficult to determine with certainty that the rapid antigen test was correct, the patient can undergo a PCR test or take another rapid antigen test while communicating with a physician through telemedicine or video conferencing. If the result is still positive, Chen said the patient and doctor can again go through the aforementioned process to prescribe medication.

The CECC head then reminded diagnosed patients to use the medication in accordance with the doctor's instructions and complete a full course of treatment. Patients cannot increase or decrease the prescribed dose in any way, so as not to impact the efficacy of the drug treatment, he said.

He pointed out that according to international randomized placebo-controlled trials, the risk of hospitalization or death in outpatients who received Merck's Molnupiravir was reduced by 31%, while patients who received Pfizer's Paxlovid saw these risks decrease by 88%.