CORONAVIRUS/CECC finds indication of past COVID-19 infections at China Airlines

04/27/2021 08:04 PM
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Ministry of Health and Welfare official Wang Pi-sheng (center) is pictured at the testing facility set up at China Airlines
Ministry of Health and Welfare official Wang Pi-sheng (center) is pictured at the testing facility set up at China Airlines' headquarters in Taoyuan. Photo courtesy of Wang Pi-sheng

Taipei, April 27 (CNA) Three pilots at Taiwan's China Airlines (CAL) who have no record of being infected with COVID-19 have tested positive for the virus' antibodies, though it is unclear if the cases are linked to a recent spate of infections at the company.

Over the past week, a total of 11 cases of COVID-19 linked to CAL, one of Taiwan's largest carriers, have been reported.

The 11 cases involved two Taiwanese cargo pilots who flew to the United States together, two Indonesian cargo pilots (one of whom was confirmed with COVID-19 in Australia) who visited a mosque in Taipei together, the wife and son of one of the Indonesian pilots, and five other Taiwanese cargo pilots.

As the CECC has not been able to determine how any of the pilots became infected, it has been conducting polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and antibody tests on 1,279 pilots at the company to determine whether there is a chain of transmission.

As of Tuesday, 939 pilots have received PCR tests, which detect active COVID-19 infections, with 930 negative results, six positive results, and three results pending.

A total of 934 pilots have received antibody tests, with 925 negative results, six positive results and three results pending.

Of the six positive results, three pilots who have no record of COVID-19 infection tested positive for IgG antibodies and negative for IgM antibodies, which indicates they were infected a while ago, CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said at a press briefing.

The CECC is looking into whether the close contacts of any of the pilots have also been infected, and if they are linked to the recently reported cases at the company, Chuang said.

Three other pilots who had previously been confirmed with COVID-19 also tested positive for antibodies, he added.

In addition to testing efforts, the CECC has also conducted genome sequencing on the viruses found in five of the 11 cases linked to CAL, CECC official Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said Tuesday at the same briefing.

The results showed that they were all infected with a variant of the virus first found in the United Kingdom that has since spread globally.

Based on current testing results and genome sequencing, the CECC is not ruling out the possibility that this could be a cluster infection, but it said more tests needed to be conducted for any conclusions to be drawn.

Also Tuesday, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (Taiwan Tech) said the school would conduct classes virtually until May 3, as 65 students and teachers may have had contact with three individuals since confirmed as having COVID-19 at a recent gathering at the Taipei Grand Mosque.

The students have been asked to follow self-health management protocols until May 2 and to not visit the university campus before then, a university spokesperson said.

Another 12 students at National Taiwan University and three at National Taiwan Normal University were also at the mosque gathering. They have been instructed to follow similar rules and attend classes virtually in the meantime.

(By Chiang Yi-ching)

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