CORONAVIRUS/Domestic COVID airport cases climb to eight; fifth hotel cluster reported

01/06/2022 06:47 PM
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Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (second right), Centers for Disease Control Director-General Chou Jih-haw (second left) and his two deputies Lo Yi-chun (left) and Chuang Jen-hsiang. Photo courtesy of the CECC
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (second right), Centers for Disease Control Director-General Chou Jih-haw (second left) and his two deputies Lo Yi-chun (left) and Chuang Jen-hsiang. Photo courtesy of the CECC

Taipei, Jan. 6 (CNA) Taiwan reported 43 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, including three domestic infections linked to Taoyuan International Airport that were initially reported by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Wednesday evening.

Although the three domestic cases were reported Wednesday, the CECC has included them in Thursday's case count. They are all women in their 50s to 60s who work as cleaners at the airport, the CECC said.

Including the new cases, eight domestic COVID-19 infections have been reported in the airport in the past week, including seven cleaners and a taxi driver tasked with taking passengers to and from quarantine facilities.

Three of the cleaners and the taxi driver have been confirmed as Omicron cases, though genome sequencing has not yet been completed to determine whether their infections are related, according to CECC official Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞).

The eight patients are all breakthrough infections and have only had mild symptoms so far, such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose, and a fever, Lo said.

The seven cleaners who have tested positive all work the night shift at the airport; and some of them take the same shuttle bus to and from work, clean the same sections at the airport, or are in the same job training group, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said.

One of the cleaners did not have a regular cleaning station and worked in different areas of the airport as needed, he added.

The remaining 881 cleaners who work at the airport have tested negative for COVID-19, as have 576 taxi drivers who transport airport arrivals to quarantine locations. Both of these groups will be tested regularly, and the cleaners who may have had contact with the confirmed cases are now in quarantine, according to the CECC.

Cleaners at the airport will also be instructed to sit in assigned seats on shuttle buses, as the CECC has found that they had not been following this policy closely, Chen said.

Family members and those living with the eight cases have all tested negative for the disease, which is "good," Chen said.

In addition to the three domestic cases, Taiwan recorded 40 new imported cases on Thursday, of which 31 are breakthrough infections, two are unvaccinated children under 5, and the vaccination status of the other seven are being looked into.

Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Thursday closes the viewing decks at Terminal 2 due the cluster infections of COVID-19 involving cleaners working at the airport. CNA photo Jan. 6, 2022
Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Thursday closes the viewing decks at Terminal 2 due the cluster infections of COVID-19 involving cleaners working at the airport. CNA photo Jan. 6, 2022

Also on Thursday, the CECC reported a cluster infection at a quarantine hotel, involving two previously recorded Omicron cases.

The two guests are Taiwanese nationals who returned to the country from Switzerland and the United States on Dec. 17 and Dec. 22, respectively. Their quarantine period at a Taipei hotel overlapped for three days, during which they were in adjacent rooms, according to Lo.

Genome sequencing found that the two cases were linked, and it was determined that one of them had been domestically transmitted, Lo said.

The CECC has not yet determined how the disease spread, but a possibility is that the virus was carried in the air circulating between the two rooms via gaps in the ceiling, he said.

The other five guests who had been staying in the hotel at the same time have tested negative, as have the hotel's 18 employees. No new guests will be allowed until the hotel passes a CECC review, Lo said.

The two cases comprise the fifth cluster confirmed at a quarantine hotel in Taiwan since early December, with the five clusters combined comprising 11 Delta cases and 5 Omicron cases in hotels in Taipei and Taoyuan, according to the CECC.

The CECC has instructed local governments to conduct inspections of the 474 quarantine hotels in the country, of which 119 were ordered to address problems identified, CECC spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said.

If improvements cannot be made in the short term, the hotels will be removed from the list of designated quarantine facilities, he said.

1. More AstraZeneca doses have been administered than have been officially received because medical workers can sometimes get more than the standard number of shots from a vial. 2. Information about the booster dose and additional dose can be found at https://t.ly/4ZuW
1. More AstraZeneca doses have been administered than have been officially received because medical workers can sometimes get more than the standard number of shots from a vial. 2. Information about the booster dose and additional dose can be found at https://t.ly/4ZuW

To date, Taiwan has confirmed 17,198 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in early 2020, of which 14,448 are domestic infections reported since May 15, 2021, when the country first recorded more than 100 cases in a single day.

Daily domestic case numbers have fallen to mostly single digits or zero, however, since Aug. 15. Taiwan has recorded eight domestic cases in January so far, all related to Taoyuan International Airport.

With no deaths reported Thursday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the country remains at 850. Taiwan last reported a death related to COVID-19 on Dec. 19.

(By Chiang Yi-ching)

Enditem/HY

Recent cases

Jan. 5: Three more domestic COVID-19 cases at Taoyuan airport confirmed

Jan. 4: Taiwan reports four domestic COVID cases, including one Omicron 

Jan. 3: Taiwan confirms first domestic Omicron cases

Jan. 2: Taiwan reports 20 new COVID-19 cases, one from potential cluster

Jan. 1: Taiwan reports 21 new COVID-19 cases, confirms 2 Omicron infections

Cluster infections at quarantine hotels

Jan. 5: COVID-19 cluster confirmed at Taipei quarantine hotel

Jan. 3: Taiwan confirms first domestic Omicron cases

Dec. 30: Taiwan reports 24 new COVID cases, including two in potential cluster

Dec. 16: Taiwan confirms COVID-19 cluster at Taoyuan quarantine hotel

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