CORONAVIRUS/Cases of COVID-19-positive Filipinos from Taiwan remain a mystery

09/21/2020 08:11 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 21 (CNA) The Philippines has not offered details on the cases of six migrant workers who tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving there from Taiwan, as the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) remains skeptical about whether they in fact had the disease.

Roughly a dozen people have tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving Taiwan, many of them in recent weeks, but each time the CECC has cast doubts on the cases because of testing metrics or the negative PCR and antibody tests of their contacts in Taiwan.

In this case the six Filipino migrant workers -- five women and one man -- left Taiwan between Aug. 28 and Sept. 11 and tested positive upon arrival in the Philippines.

The CECC asked for further details last week, but Philippine health authorities have not provided the cycle threshold (CT) values of the PCR tests of the six Filipino migrant workers, CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said in a telephone interview Monday.

"We have asked them, but they still have not given the CT values to us. We would very much like to know what they (CT values) are," Chuang told CNA.

In Taiwan, the cutoff value for a positive test is a CT value of under 35, but he suspected the Philippines may be using a cutoff value of 40, given that six people returning from Taiwan were reported to be positive.

The CECC also has its doubts because after identifying 122 contacts of the six people in Taiwan, the CECC carried out both PCR and blood tests on them to test for the virus or antibodies, and all of the tests were negative.

The CECC will hold an experts meeting in the future to decide if they will close the case, Chuang said, without specifying a specific date.

Despite the CECC's doubts, the Philippines representative office in Taiwan has decided to suspend any mass gatherings, and it shut down its offices in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Taichung for disinfection for a few days last week.

Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) Vice Chairman and Deputy Resident Representative Gilberto F. Lauengco said his office is coordinating with relevant authorities in the Philippines to confirm why six returnees were found to be positive.

"We thank the Taiwan government to test the possible contacts of the Filipinos who went home. I am happy that they tested negative, but we would still like to encourage caution for everybody, including the Philippine community, so that we can help our host country in battling it (COVID-19)," Lauengco said.

He said MECO will also request a meeting with Taiwan health authorities to ask for advice on the matter.

"This is Taiwan, and we will follow the advice of the health authorities here," he said.

To date, Taiwan has recorded 509 cases of COVID-19, with 417 classified as imported. Of the total, 479 have recovered, seven have died, and 23 are in the hospital, according to CECC data. The last time Taiwan recorded a domestic infection was on April 12.

(By William Yen)

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