The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Monday said it plans to test 5,000 randomly selected blood donation samples in Taiwan, collected from April to July, for COVID-19 antibodies so as to develop a clearer picture as to the prevalence of the coronavirus disease during its peak in the country.
The project plans to test for the neutralizing antibodies the body naturally produces following exposure to COVID-19 in order to glean a clear picture of the geographical distribution of COVID-19 cases and total case numbers, as distinct from those who developed COVID-19 antibodies after being vaccinated, according to Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (???), who heads the CECC.
Asked why such research is being conducted now, Chen told reporters that as the domestic outbreak which began in mid-May has been largely brought under control over the past few weeks, fewer people are now willing to be tested for coronavirus voluntarily.
The research will help the CECC to better understand case trends and distribution within the country and take precautionary measures to prevent another domestic outbreak, he said.
Meanwhile, CECC spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (???), said the project is being reviewed by the nation's Institutional Review Board (IRB), which oversees ethical and regulatory issues related to clinical studies.
The results of the study are expected to be released before the end of December once the IRB approves the project, Chuang added.
The project is one of the measures the CECC is launching to combat the spread of the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus in Taiwan.
Another measure the CECC plans to launch soon is to allocate COVID-19 self-test kits to clinics nationwide starting Aug. 30.
Doctors in these clinics can decide which patients they consider as having a high risk of infection before giving them test-kits to do the screening at home.
If they test positive, they can go back to the clinic or a nearby hospital to take a PCR test to double check, according to the CECC.
Other measures also include mandatory screening employees who work at four international airports in Taiwan -- in Taoyuan, Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung -- every seven days starting Aug. 30, as they are considered to have a higher risk of being infected with the disease.
Examinations of the nation's waste water and frozen food imports for coronavirus will also be beefed up as part of preventive measures, the CECC said.
Taiwan first raised the COVID-19 alert to Level 2 on May 11, after recording a surge in cases transmitted in the community and to Level 3 on May 19 after local cases surged to over 100 a day.
The CECC lowered the COVID-19 alert to Level 2 on July 27, which is scheduled to expire on Sept. 6, after Taiwan recorded fewer than 100 domestically transmitted cases per day for a month.
Monday marks the 13th consecutive day that Taiwan saw single digit number of domestically transmitted cases.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel