CORONAVIRUS/Four CAL pilots, hotel worker infected with same COVID variant: CECC

05/01/2021 07:06 PM
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The Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel. CNA photo May 1, 2021
The Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel. CNA photo May 1, 2021

Taipei, May 1 (CNA) Four of the 10 China Airlines pilots who recently tested positive for COVID-19 were found to be infected with the same variant of the disease as an employee at a Taiwan hotel where they had stayed, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Saturday.

The employee, a housekeeping manager in his 40s, visited at least three doctors after he developed respiratory symptoms on April 17, but he continued working for 10 days until he was hospitalized with pneumonia on April 27, the CECC said at a press briefing.

Before and during the 10-day period, three of the 10 China Airlines (CAL) pilots who later tested positive for COVID-19 had stayed at the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel for their mandatory three-day quarantine, CECC official Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said.

Since then, the number of cases at the hotel and among CAL pilots and their relatives has jumped to 20, according to CECC data.

Lo said the CECC has established that four of the CAL pilots, including the three who had stayed at the hotel while the housekeeping manager was sick, were all infected with the same COVID-19 variant as him.

While the CECC's tests showed that the five patients had contracted a COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom, the chain of infection among the 20 people is still not clear, Lo said.

CECC official Lo Yi-chun explains the test results that showed the five patients contracted the same variant of the coronavirus during Saturday
CECC official Lo Yi-chun explains the test results that showed the five patients contracted the same variant of the coronavirus during Saturday's press briefing. Photo courtesy of the CECC

In their tracing efforts, CECC officials have not been able to speak with the hotel housekeeping manager, because he is on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit, Lo added.

It has been established, however, that the housekeeping manager had been delivering items to the guest rooms where the pilots were quarantined and had been assisting with check-in and check-out, Lo said.

Among Novotel's over 200 employees currently in quarantine, the housekeeping manager is the only one who has tested positive for antibodies, which leads the CECC to believe that he may have been the first patient in the hotel cluster, Lo said. As of Saturday, four Novotel employees, 10 pilots and six of the pilots' family members had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the CECC.

The cases of the Novotel employees and the pilots' relatives are deemed as domestic cases, but the CECC has not yet classified the pilots' infections, including one that was confirmed in Australia, according to Lo.

Genome sequencing of the viruses in eight of the patients indicated more than one sources of infection, Lo said.

He said CECC officials would be taking swabs at the airport hotel on Saturday before it is disinfected.

CECC officials work at the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel. CNA photo May 1, 2021
CECC officials work at the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel. CNA photo May 1, 2021

All of the hotel's staff and guests, over 400 people, were moved to government quarantine centers April 29, on a CECC directive.

The airport hotel is part of the China Airlines complex, which comprises the Taiwanese carrier's headquarters and training facilities. The hotel is also used to quarantine flight crews of CAL and other airlines, and as a venue for accommodation, conferences and dining by the general public.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan, Chen Chih-chung and Kay Liu)

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