My 7 days of quarantine just finished at midnight tonight. Here’s how it went for me and what I thought about the reporting procedure.
Saturday, July 23: Met with a few friends in a bar.
Sunday, July 24: One of said friends felt she had a sore throat so did a rapid test, which came out negative, then another one, which came out positive. She informed the rest of us. We’d spent several hours inside talking (sans masks, FWIW), so figured I’d keep an eye on how I was feeling for a couple of days.
Monday, July 25: Felt mostly normal, with no remarkable symptoms. Took the chance to go buy some groceries and run some errands, just in case. Tested negative by rapid test that evening.
Tuesday, July 26: Started to feel a little off – slightly congested and an occasional minor headache, but nothing too serious. Decided it would be a good idea to take out the garbage today, just in case. Tested positive by rapid test later that evening. Two other friends who were there on Saturday also tested positive around this time, one of whom hadn’t even spent that much time with the plague carrier (possibly 3–4 minutes – he was mostly outside and didn’t stay long). All of us were vaccinated and boosted. Among the group of ca. 10 friends, basically all of us who hadn’t had it yet caught it that night (plus presumably an unknown number of others inside the bar).
Spent a couple of hours trying to figure out what I was supposed to do and pissing around with the EUCARE app.
Wednesday, July 27: Was finally able to make an appointment for a video consultation on the EUCARE app for the afternoon. Appointments weren’t that hard to get, but they weren’t that easy either. The number of clinics/hospitals/doctors registered on the app seems surprisingly small – just 25 for all of Taiwan, 3/4 in Taipei City, and 2 in New Taipei City right now. There wasn’t much choice for a same-day consultation, so I pretty much chose the only one with an available slot, which happened to be a geriatric clinic in Beitou. There were more slots available several days later, but I’m very glad I didn’t choose one of those or my 7-day quarantine might have ended up being 10 days instead (see below).
The video consultation was fine. That was done inside the EUCARE app, and I needed to send a photo of my NHI card and the rapid test result beforehand. The doctor spoke workable English, but I got the impression I might be the first foreign patient he’s had to deal with for this (he specifically said he’d translate the instructions into English for me, and he called me separately later to make sure I understood everything and was able to get the medicines). I just told him I was feeling basically fine, no serious symptoms, blah blah blah, and he wrote me the prescription I posted above. The doctor assured me that day zero of my quarantine would be July 26, the date of first symptoms/positive result.
Getting the prescription was a bit of a pain, if one doesn’t speak/read Chinese. This is also done in the app, but it requires choosing a pharmacy from a long list of names and addresses (exclusively in Chinese) then calling them to get a one-time password, then putting that into the app to forward the prescription to the pharmacy. And the app doesn’t allow screenshots (why?!) or copying text, so finding nearby pharmacies took a while. I tried three phone numbers and asked if they had anyone who spoke English (they didn’t), before giving up and asking a Taiwanese friend to call. I didn’t even want the medicine that much to be honest, and was tempted to just give up – it seems to me that the OTP step is unnecessarily convoluted and could just be omitted. Anyway, once I had the OTP, it was easy to forward the prescription to the pharmacy, and they delivered the medicine to my home the next afternoon (the pharmacist in the end spoke some English, and she called me the next day to confirm the details). A friend also dropped off a few sachets of that Taiwanese herbal medicine NRICM101 – I can’t say for sure that it did anything, but it was a lot more palatable than I was expecting.
Had to pay NT$150 for the video consultation (medicines included) by bank transfer, in addition to spending several hours of my life dealing with the process (and a couple more hours later – see below). It’s not much, though it was a bit grating to spend money/time trying to “do the right thing” and report the case. If I had to do this again, I’d honestly be inclined to not bother reporting it and just stay at home for 7 days like my friends did (one Taiwanese and one foreigner; I’m guessing the third known victim reported because he was saying/joking that night that he had COVID insurance so wouldn’t mind catching it). I guess I’ll have this opportunity for future variants/scariants.
Was feeling a bit rougher by this point in the evening, especially after spending several hours with the above and not sleeping well the previous night, and had to give up on a work deadline I was supposed to finish that evening and say I was taking a few days off “because of COVID”. My symptoms still weren’t terrible though.
Thursday, July 28: Received an SMS at 7 a.m. asking me to fill out a web form describing symptoms/contacts/personal details etc. (in Chinese). That was all fine, especially as in this case the developers hadn’t chosen to write everything as a bloody graphic.
Then received another SMS at 9:30 a.m directing me to the quarantine notice. Despite what the doctor had assured me, this had my quarantine period listed as 8 full days (starting 00:00 on July 27, ending 23:59 on August 3). It seems that day zero was being considered as July 27 (date of reporting), not July 26 (date of test/symptoms), despite July 26 correctly appearing as the date of diagnosis in other places like the EUCARE and NHI apps.
Was then called by the Beitou health department…who were confused why I wasn’t in Beitou. I was also confused why they were calling me, because I hadn’t noticed until this point that the clinic was in Beitou – like I said, the app didn’t have too many options. The lady there spoke decent English and just confirmed some details with me before saying the case would be transferred to the health department for Zhongzheng, where I live. She also told me that, to her understanding, my quarantine should last until August 2 not August 3.
The Zhongzheng health department then called me. This lady didn’t speak much English, but she asked me a couple of questions about my symptoms then cheerfully wished that I have a nice time in quarantine. She said I should speak to my doctor about the dates, which I did, and he said they’d sort it.
Medicines arrived in the afternoon. Symptom-wise, this was probably the worst day or two, and it wasn’t that bad for me. I was still just a bit congested, occasional minor headache, slightly sore throat, slight cough, and generally feeling a bit rough. I slept quite a lot and couldn’t be bothered working, but otherwise I just spent the time baking and playing 7 Days to Die (about actual plague-ridden zombies). I’ve definitely had worse seasonal colds in my life. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being normal and 10 being the worst cold I remember having, I’d maybe put this as a 5, if that. Quite an anticlimax after 2.5 years of restrictions (at least in my case – yes, I’m aware that some others have it worse).
Friday, July 29, to Monday, August 1: Nothing remarkable happened. Mostly just bored.
Tuesday, August 2: Still hadn’t received any updated info about my quarantine dates (the doctor said I’d get a new SMS), so I started calling around. This was a pain in the arse. Despite (reported) cases now being at a quarter of what they were two months ago, my impression is that the capacity isn’t there and one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing:
- The doctor said they’d fixed it at the end of last week.
- Beitou health department gave me a number to call for the “Taipei City Epidemic Prevention Hotline”, which didn’t work despite repeated attempts. Just a recorded message, some weird echoes, then automatically hanging up. The Beitou health department lady, who gave me her Line details, had also said she couldn’t get through last week.
- 1922 – “press 7 for English service” – put me on hold for 10 minutes then directed me to someone who doesn’t actually speak English or automatically hung up. On one of these attempts, I got through to a guy who spoke decent English, but there wasn’t much he could do. He again gave me the above number for the Taipei City Epidemic Prevention Hotline, which I told him doesn’t work, but he said I should keep calling or maybe try contacting the Zhongzheng district health department, which he couldn’t give me the number for but maybe I could find it by Google.
- Another number someone (I forget who) gave me just automatically hung up as well.
- The doctor gave me another number and extension for a “Notifiable Infectious Diseases Office”. The lady on that extension was friendly but didn’t speak English. Dialing just the number and selecting “English service” just got me through to someone who doesn’t speak English (I’ve long been curious about whether this option has any influence at all on who a call is directed to).
- I told the doctor this, and he kindly contacted them twice more to ask them to send out the revised notice. The first one of these didn’t come through for whatever reason, but then the doctor added his own phone number as a proxy and received the revised notice, which he forwarded to me over Line confirming my release from quarantine as of midnight on August 2.
- No idea why the previous notices didn’t come through or what had gone wrong in the first place, but I was fortunate that the doctor had been willing to waste his time doing that to help me. The various CDC and health department contacts ultimately weren’t very useful, and I was advised several times just to stick to the notice if I couldn’t get someone to change it, despite them agreeing that I was able to count to 7 properly. (I don’t actually care that much about 8 days vs. 7 days for the quarantine, but the main issue is that I have a separate doctors appointment originally for August 3, which I rescheduled to August 10, and it seems unclear whether I can go to that during the subsequent 7-day self-health management period – I don’t want my NHI card to set off a load of sirens in the hospital and get me flagged/fined for breaking some rule.)
TL;DR: The reporting procedure was more hassle than the COVID.