Omicron's Siege

By Chiou Shu-Ti

China Times, January 8, 2022


Omicron should have spread to the community. Who let in the Trojan horse carrying the virus once again disturbs the peace and jolly of the Chinese New Year festival?


Omicron has swept the world like a tsunami. Although its toxicity is lower than that of Delta variant, it still has a severe illness rate close to that of the native strain. Not only has the hospitalization rate of children soared in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States, but the number of hospitalizations in intensive care units in the United States has soared, and the mortality rate in the United Kingdom and South Africa has again soared. This is not a Christmas present by any means.


Once Omicron enters the community, it is invincible. Its replication speed is far too fast, and the median incubation period is only three days; what is even more frightening is that it can spread during the incubation period and has high air-transmission ability, but the test result may still be negative at this time. Some 90 percent of the cases detected in the Taoyuan Airport cluster have symptoms, which means that it is too late to detect, and it has been spreading several waves. The airborne transmission has more infections of unspecified objects, and renders the tracing of the infection chain imperfect.


The virus has undergone ultimate evolution, but the government is still working slowly. To be sure, it will never catch up. It goes without saying, if the authorities don't want to lock down the city or impose a level 3 alert, it must carefully guard the country's borders. However, what has the government done about it?


After the global outbreak of the Omicron epidemic, many have advised that at least the United Kingdom and the United States should be listed as high-risk countries, if international flights are not canceled. But the head of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has repeatedly claimed that the risks are all the same. How can it be the same? Among the 138 imported Omicron cases announced by the CECC, 84 were from the United States, well over half of the imported cases. The source of transmission of the breach in the quarantine hotel was also traced to the returnees from the United States. According to international data, the seven-day average of the incidence rate of the United States on January 3 was 1442.6 parts per million, while that of mainland China was 0.13 ppm, a difference of more than 10,000 times! How can this be the same? The CECC blurted out a blatant lie.


After the spread of the epidemic, the CECC quickly released a list of countries with "high risk" and added it to the U.S. and U.K. list. It did not list a complete and transparent risk comparison of the top few, according to the number of people entering the country. Deliberately treating all entrants as same group disregard a risk difference of as much as 10,000 times.  From the airport, inspections, transportation, to the quarantine hotel, all mix together. In this situation the low-risk returnees hoping to return home without being infected is not that easy!


In the past, the authorities exclaimed that "Xiao Ming (adopted child)" coming back from China would paralyze Taiwan's medical system. Now there are dozens of confirmed cases of "Da Ming (adult)" who come back every day. No wonder there is an increasing need for negative-pressure wards. Deliberately concealing the existence of clear high risks, Taoyuan Airport becomes the first to bear the brunt! What protection measures has the government taken?


Knowing that high-risk workers serving in the international airport and quarantine hotels are physically protecting our people from infecting the virus, yet the government did not provide them with regular general screening. And the health management of this high-risk group has been plunged into a state of anarchy—failed to complete third-dose vaccinations early, failed to carry out subdivision and segregation, confusion regarding the transportation, the sick symptoms were not reported and only tested after several days, all of these have hampered the effectiveness of epidemic prevention.


Even more inconceivable is that the high-risk people would take another high-risk job (e.g., running market stalls) or take part in an activity (e.g., joining singers club) that comes into contact with crowds. Aren't these series of dereliction creating a super "Trojan horse" that carries the virus from the airport to the community?


Those in power were busy with elections, the epidemic prevention works that should have been implemented have never been cared earnestly. Epidemic prevention bully and epidemic prevention offender can still run for legislator and oppose recall election. Relying upon large-scale propaganda by friendly cyber-armies, incumbent administration had no qualms about rubbing salt on wounds.


Isn't such a huge political Trojan horse carrying Omicron into Taiwan once again makes it difficult for the people to celebrate the Chinese New Year festival?


(The author is chairwoman of the Health and Sustainable Development Foundation.)



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