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Mass testing of COVID-19 in Taiwan's Changhua have seen positive cases - health experts

CNA file photo for illustrative purpose

An ongoing mass testing program for COVID-19 antibodies in Changhua County has seen positive cases, suggesting there have been previous infections in the central Taiwan county, experts said Saturday.

The country's first large-scale testing of its kind, conducted by National Taiwan University's (NTU's) College of Public Health in collaboration with the county government, has so far found reactions in all four target groups for a total of some 3,000 people.

The groups include people who had contracted COVID-19 virus, others who had come into contact with them, those who had been in home isolation or quarantine at some stage over the past few months, as well as healthcare practitioners in Changhua, according to the NTU.

Chen Hsiu-hsi, a professor from the college, said the exact infection rate is still being calculated, with further results to be disclosed on Aug. 25.

He stressed, however, that the examination was aimed at helping confirm the true rate of infection in the past, and did not have much implication on the current situation.

The existence of positive cases in antibody tests is good news, said the county's Public Health Bureau Director Yeh Yen-po (葉彥伯).

Yeh said it means that there are already neutralizing antibodies, which defends a cell from a pathogen or infectious particle by neutralizing any effect it has biologically, in the community.

The type of antibody suggests a certain level of immunity in the community, and its application could help vaccine development, Yeh said.

The final results of the study, which will test 10,000 people in Changhua, will be available in September.

In response to initial findings of the project that started on June 11, Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang said its implications will only be clear after formal examinations are provided. (By CNA)

CECC experts had cautioned before that the test may not reflect the actual infection rate in Changhua as antibody test kits available on the market are not very accurate.

They said this was one of the reasons why the CECC has decided against countrywide mass testing for COVID-19 so far.

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