In light of the ongoing pneumonia outbreak caused by a novel coronavirus in China and imported cases from Wuhan have subsequently been reported in neighboring countries such as Thailand, Japan, and Korea, it is determined that the outbreak in China has obviously resulted in community transmission and spread. On January 20, 2020, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) announced the activation of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) for Severe Special Infectious Pneumonia and the Taiwan CDC Director-General Chou Chih-haw (周志浩) was appointed as the commander in order to integrate resources across government agencies and further protect the health of the Taiwanese public from the outbreak. A cross-agency command center meeting and an expert consultation meeting were held.
In the afternoon of January 20, the Executive Yuan Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) attended the command center meeting and was briefed. Vice Premier Chen instructed that all government agencies must rapidly and fully support the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) in all disease prevention and control efforts to demonstrate the capacity and the resolve to effectively tackle the threats and challenges posed by the outbreak to the public. Such efforts include thorough implementation of quarantine measures at international and three-small-link airports and ports, reinforcing risk communication with the public and public awareness about the disease, ensuring the preparation of pharmaceutical and medical supplies to prevent the occurrence of fake news concerning shortages and price gouging and reduce public panic, and planning and conducting drills for nosocomial infection control at healthcare facilities to minimize the impact of the outbreak on Taiwan.
During the expert consultation meeting, the participating experts recommended to expand the target population for the reporting criteria of cases of severe special infectious pneumonia and include all pneumonia cases with history of travel to China rather than history of travel to Wuhan, China in order to broaden the scope of surveillance and promptly identify suspected cases. On the other hand, the experts also recommended distributing health education pamphlets— “Travel-related Outbreak Warning: Voluntary Health Assessment” on all arriving flights from China, Hong Kong and Macau. In addition, the experts also asked Taiwan CDC to confirm the diagnostic capacity and assist healthcare facilities in making an inventory of the isolation wards in response to the demand caused by increased travel during the Chinese New Year holiday.
Taiwan CDC reminds travelers planning to visit Wuhan or other neighboring areas in China recently to wash hands thoroughly with soap, wear a surgical mask and seek medical attention when coughing, avoid contact with wild animals and patients with acute respiratory tract infections throughout the trip. If symptoms such as fever or cough develop upon arriving in Taiwan, please voluntarily notify the quarantine officer at the quarantine station in the airport/port. If the aforementioned symptoms develop within 14 days after returning to Taiwan, please put on a surgical mask and seek immediate medical attention. Moreover, please inform the physician of any history of travel, occupation, contact, and cluster (TOCC) to facilitate timely diagnosis and prompt case-reporting. For more information on severe special infectious pneumonia, please visit the Taiwan CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov.tw or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Reporting and Consultation Hotline, 1922 (or 0800-001922).