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Taiwan mulls extending airport virus tests until Lunar New Year

Tests target arrivals from China, Hong Kong, Macau with flu symptoms

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Health Minister Hsieh Jui-yuan (first left) observes tests at Taoyuan International Airport Saturday.

Health Minister Hsieh Jui-yuan (first left) observes tests at Taoyuan International Airport Saturday. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A two-week program offering virus testing for airline passengers arriving from China, Hong Kong, and Macau could be extended until the Lunar New Year, Taiwan’s health minister said Saturday (Dec. 2).

The emergence of mycoplasma pneumoniae in China has raised fears that it might expand into another pandemic like COVID-19. As a result, Taiwan’s health authorities have raised their awareness and launched new initiatives.

Health and Welfare Minister Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) on Saturday visited Taoyuan International Airport to observe the implementation of tests for passengers showing flu-like symptoms, per CNA. The project also includes international airports in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung, and covers 17 viruses and four bacteria, including COVID-19.

Since the tests started on Nov. 26 and up until Nov. 30, 52 passengers volunteered for the tests, with 34 testing positive, Hsieh said. Influenza was found in 60% of the positive cases, and COVID-19 in 23.5%, but no mycoplasma pneumoniae.

The minister said that because of mycoplasma’s long incubation period, it would eventually be impossible to determine which cases were imported or domestic infections. He added that mycoplasma was present in Taiwan, but no mass infections had occurred.

The increase in travelers from China to Taiwan ahead of the Lunar New Year period in February would make it necessary to extend the current airport testing program until then, Hsieh said.