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Omicron BA.5 risk too high to start Taiwan's '0 + 7' plan

CECC afraid '0 + 7' quarantine could increase risk of subvariant BA.5's spread

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Omicron BA.5 risk too high to start Taiwan's '0 + 7' plan

(CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Tuesday (July 5) said that as outbreaks of the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 heat up around the world, the risk of changing Taiwan's quarantine scheme to "0 + 7" is too high and therefore the current "3 + 4" rule will continue for the time being.

As daily local COVID cases have been on a steady decline since reaching a peak of 94,808, there has been a growing call to change the current "3 + 4" formula of three days of quarantine and four days of self-health management to a "0 + 7" program, which would eliminate quarantine in favor of seven days of self-health management. Prior to a Ministry of Health and Welfare press conference on Tuesday morning (July 5), CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) was asked when the "0 + 7" plan would be implemented.

Chen replied by saying that due to the emergence of the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, global pandemic cases have rebounded by 21%, especially in Europe and North America. Chen said that given the recent surge in cases, an immediate implementation of "0 + 7" at this time "could raise the risk a little higher," reported CNA.

He said the CECC will continue to monitor the situation and make incremental adjustments. When asked whether the mandatory PCR test before boarding a plane to Taiwan could be changed to a rapid antigen test, Chen said the possibility of changing the type of test was relatively low. However, Chen said that it is possible that relevant regulations for low-risk areas could be discontinued.

During the center's daily press conference that afternoon, CECC Spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) was also asked when Taiwan would implement the "0 + 7" method. Chuang replied by pointing out that Taiwan is still adding over 30,000 cases per day, while other countries such as South Korea waited until cases were much lower before they relaxed their quarantine rules.

Chuang said that it is hard to say when Taiwan can end its quarantine, but the current rate at which daily cases are dropping has slowed. He added the implementation of "0 + 7" will not only be tied to daily cases, but also the threat of new variants.

When asked if the new zero quarantine policy would be implemented in August, Chuang said it would depend on the situation at the time. He then warned that there may be a new small wave of cases brought about by new variants after July or August, and therefore, more observation is necessary before any changes can be made.

As to whether Taiwan will discontinue the 48-hour PCR test requirement for low-risk countries, Chuang said that this will depend on pandemic data and trends. These include whether the number of cases in a given country has decreased over the past 14 days. Changes to the policy for low-risk countries will be considered and the transparency of a given country's outbreak monitoring will be a factor.