CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan reports first domestic BA.5 subvariant cases
Taipei, July 6 (CNA) Two Taichung residents have become the first reported domestic cases of the BA.5 Omicron subvariant of COVID-19 in Taiwan after they contracted the disease from family members returning from overseas, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.
The travelers were a woman and her two children who returned to Taiwan from the United States on June 19 and were picked up at the airport by her brother and mother, Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC's medical response division, said at a press briefing.
While in quarantine at a hotel, the COVID-19 test the woman had taken at the airport was confirmed as positive, and her two children tested positive a few days later after developing fevers, Lo said.
Her brother, meanwhile, developed a fever, cough, and sore throat on June 24 and tested positive on a rapid test.
Genome sequencing results on the woman's test confirmed her as an Omicron BA.5 subvariant case on June 29. Her mother was subsequently tested and her result came back positive as well, according to Lo.
Further genome sequencing on Tuesday concluded that the woman's children, her brother, and her mother were all BA.5 cases, making the latter two the first domestic cases of the subvariant recorded in Taiwan, Lo said.
The five individuals were either asymptomatic or had only mild symptoms, Lo added.
Lo said that the woman's brother and mother likely contracted the disease during the car ride from Taoyuan International Airport to Taichung, even though all five people wore masks throughout the entire journey, because the three arrivals did not meet with the two others when in quarantine.
He stressed that there was no sign that the subvariant had spread further into the community, as the two people who were already in Taiwan rarely left their homes prior to testing positive, and that the lone close contact of the man had tested negative.
To date, Taiwan has recorded 204 imported cases of BA.5 and two domestic BA.5 cases, along with 36 cases of BA.4, Lo said.
The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants were first detected in January and February 2022, respectively, in South Africa. They can evade immunity from prior infections and appear to be more transmissible than previous Omicron strains, according to the CECC.
The CECC said Monday that Taiwan would maintain its current border restrictions, including a weekly arrivals cap of 25,000, for the time being, due to concerns over rising case numbers globally and the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants.
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