CORONAVIRUS/18 Filipinos, 1 Japanese confirmed with COVID-19 after leaving Taiwan

09/23/2020 08:27 PM
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The government's weekly COVID-19 briefing. Photo courtesy of the CECC

Taipei, Sept. 23 (CNA) Nineteen people -- 18 Filipinos and one Japanese -- tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving Taiwan recently, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday, adding that it could not establish that they had been infected in Taiwan.

The CECC said it received information about the infections from the patients, their contacts in Taiwan, and the National IHR Focal Point, which is a communication channel set up under the World Health Organization.

The 18 Philippine nationals -- 10 women and eight men ages 20-60 -- had been working in Taiwan as domestic caregivers, factory employees and ship crew members, the CECC said.

They returned to the Philippines between Aug. 19 and Sept. 11, all testing positive upon arrival, including four who had traveled on the same flight on Sept. 10, the CECC said.

Another 11 were on the same flight on Sept. 11, on which there were two other Filipinos who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival, the CECC said, adding that it had released the information about those two cases last week.

On the question why it had not mentioned last week the other 11 cases on that flight, the CECC said it had not yet received the information from Philippine health authorities.

The CECC said it had learned about the recent cases from the patients' contacts in Taiwan, after which it sought information from the Philippines.

To date, the CECC said, it has traced 372 people in Taiwan who had contact with the 18 Filipino patients. Of that number, 202 were deemed as close contacts and were tested for the COVID-19 virus and antibodies, with all of the results coming back negative, the center said.

"After thorough investigation, we have found no evidence so far that the patients were infected in Taiwan or had infected others in Taiwan," said Su Chia-ping (蘇家彬) of the Centers for Disease Control.

According to the CECC, 25 people who traveled from Taiwan to the Philippines over the past four months tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival, which is 0.48 percent of the total number of travelers on that route during that period.

In comparison, the percentage of positive cases among travelers from Taiwan to other countries in the four-month period was between 0.005 and 0.055 percent, the CECC said.

CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang. Photo courtesy of the CECC
CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang. Photo courtesy of the CECC

According to CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), efforts by the center to obtain more detailed information about the Philippine cases and the testing process there have drawn only "vague responses."

This could be because the agency with which the CECC has been communicating is not the one doing the testing, Chung said, adding that the government there has commissioned the Philippine Red Cross to do the COVID-19 testing.

Nonetheless, the CECC will continue its efforts to obtain the relevant information from the Philippine health authorities, Chuang said.

The Japanese patient, meanwhile, is a man in his 50s, who arrived in Taiwan on Aug. 29, completed his quarantine on Sept. 12, and returned to Japan two days later, the CECC said.

On arrival in Japan, he was given an antigen test for COVID-19, which came back positive, and Japanese health authorities alerted Taiwan of the case, the CECC said.

The patient later contacted the CECC, however, and said that he had tested negative on two consecutive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21, according to the center.

It said it had identified one person in Taiwan who had come in contact with the patient, and that individual tested negative for the COVID-19 virus and antibodies.

"This was likely a testing issue and should have no effect on Taiwan," CECC head and Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. Photo courtesy of the CECC
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. Photo courtesy of the CECC

Although there have been several recent cases of travelers testing positive for COVID-19 after leaving Taiwan, they have not been added to Taiwan's total case count and none of their contacts in Taiwan have tested positive for the disease, according to the CECC.

The center said Wednesday that it deals with such cases as domestic infections cases and conducts contact tracing accordingly.

To date, Taiwan has confirmed 509 COVID-19 cases, with 417 classified as imported. Of the total, 480 have recovered, seven have died and 22 are in hospital, according to CECC data.

(By Chen Wei-ting and Chiang Yi-ching)

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