CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan trying to curb new infection cluster to prevent COVID community outbreak

05/03/2021 03:42 PM
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Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中). CNA photo May 3, 2021
Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中). CNA photo May 3, 2021

Taipei, May 3 (CNA) Taiwan is stepping up contact tracing and other containment measures as a jump in new domestic COVID-19 cases related to a Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport quarantine hotel fanned fears of a wave of community infections, according to Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

As the number of COVID-19 cases linked to China Airlines (CAL) and Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport where many CAL flight crew members stay for quarantine after arriving in Taiwan has risen to 24, the key to preventing community infections is to contain the outbreak in the hotel, Chen said Monday morning in a radio show.

Two-and-a-half months after a cluster of COVID-19 infections at Taoyuan General Hospital was contained, a new cluster of infections connected to CAL and the Taoayuan quarantine hotel has emerged, according to Chen.

It has yet to be determined whether the 24 COVID-19 cases were locally acquired, Chen said, adding that almost all CAL pilots and crew members have been recalled for COVID-19 testing and the results of testing on some 700 of them have shown no new cases, indicating that the risk of community transmission is low.

However, considering the possible risk of transmission among the 207 employees in the airport quarantine hotel, where several of its staff members have been confirmed to have COVID-19, the CECC is focusing on tracing the contacts they might have had in their communities, Chen said.

The cases related to the hotel include a housekeeping manager, a worker in the catering department, two workers in the housekeeping department, and three family members of one worker in the housekeeping department.

The CECC has identified over 100 people who had contact with two family members of the housekeeping employee, both of whom used public transport to travel to and from work in Taipei and New Taipei, according to Chen.

Although in the current case, the transmission of COVID-19 was among family members who had close contact with those who had tested positive for the virus, Taiwan is still on the verge of community transmission, he said.

Therefore, businesses and the public should brace for the possibility of a community outbreak as Mother's Day draws near, when a number of celebrations and big gatherings are expected, drawing together large numbers of people in close proximity to each other, Chen added.

Meanwhile, the Taipei City government announced Monday that it has placed 252 people in the city under home isolation after two of four people linked to the quarantine hotel confirmed Sunday as domestic COVID-19 cases had visited restaurants in Taipei and had traveled on public transport in the city before testing positive for the disease.

At the same time, Yongping Elementary School in New Taipei's Yonghe District announced Monday that it will cancel the school's anniversary celebration scheduled for May 8 to reduce the risk of cluster infections of COVID-19 after the daughter of the housekeeping employee at the Taoyuan quarantine hotel has traveled on public transport in the city.

She took the Taipei Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) on April 26, 27, and 28, boarding at Dingxi Station, transferring at Guting and getting off at Ximen, and ate at a restaurant in New Taipei on the evening of April 26.

The school's anniversary celebration was expected to draw around 5,000 people, including 3,000 faculty members, teachers and students, it said.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Chen Yu-ting and Evelyn Kao)

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