CORONAVIRUS/Domestic COVID-19 cases linked to airport climb to 55

Taiwan on Thursday confirmed 14 new domestic cases of COVID-19, all but one of which were linked to a wider outbreak of the disease originating at Taoyuan International Airport, and one death from the disease, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

The first case related to the airport, involving a janitor, was reported on Jan. 3. Several other airport personnel and their family members and friends have also tested positive for COVID-19 since, and the disease has spread among the contacts of these cases.

New airport-related domestic cases

Among the 14 domestic COVID-19 cases reported Thursday, 13 can be traced back to the airport. Two are family members of previously confirmed cases, 10 are employees at a branch of the Union Bank of Taiwan in Taoyuan, and one is a family member of a bank employee.

The source of the cluster at the bank is a relative of a COVID-19-infected airport employee who has also tested positive for the disease.

She visited the branch, which is located on Jianxing Road in Zhongli District, on Dec. 30 and Jan. 4, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (???) said at a CECC briefing Thursday.

Surveillance footage shows that during her visit on Jan. 4, which lasted for an hour, she took off her mask while talking on the phone, Chen said.

As three employees at the bank tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, the cluster at the bank currently totals 14 cases. The infected employees work on different floors of the branch, and it is possible that they caught the disease at work or during a year-end dinner which they all attended on Jan. 7, Chen said.

The other 17 bank employees have tested negative, Chen said.

Taoyuan health officials are contacting people who had been to the bank between Jan. 4 and Jan. 12 as well as those who dined in the same restaurant as the bank employees on Jan. 7 so they can be tested for COVID-19, he added.

New: Employee at Taoyuan steakhouse tests positive for COVID-19 (11:32 p.m., Jan. 13)

Omicron cases

Of the 55 domestic COVID-19 infections linked to the airport that have been reported so far, 29 have been confirmed as Omicron variant infections.

Based on preliminary genome sequencing results, 28 have been confirmed as part of one cluster, which likely originated with a janitor at the airport who was infected by a returning traveler, according to the CECC.

The remaining case involved a taxi driver tasked with taking passengers to and from quarantine facilities who was found to have been infected by a passenger in late December.

Other new domestic case

The other domestic COVID-19 case reported Thursday is a nurse at the Renai Branch of Taipei City Hospital who takes care of COVID-19 patients. She began to have symptoms on Tuesday and a test she took the next day returned a positive result, said CECC official Chang Shan-chwen (???).

Colleagues who worked in the same ward as her are in quarantine, and the CECC will test them and other contacts, Chang said.

Eleven of the new domestic cases recorded Thursday have been classified as breakthrough cases of COVID-19, while a woman in her 20s and a boy who is younger than 10 had not been vaccinated against the disease. The vaccination status of one case is still being determined.

New imported cases

In addition to the domestic cases, Taiwan also reported 51 imported cases on Thursday. Of these cases, 27 were travelers who tested positive during quarantine, and the other 24 tested positive upon arrival in Taiwan on Wednesday, according to the CECC.

The CECC did not release any information regarding the vaccination status of the imported cases.

(Jan. 10: New COVID-19 testing rules for long-haul flight arrivals set to begin)

First COVID death in 2022

The sole death reported Thursday is a Taiwanese man in his 50s who began to display COVID-19 symptoms in early December when he was still in Vietnam. He returned to Taiwan on a medical charter flight on Dec. 17 after his condition began to deteriorate, according to CECC official Lo Yi-chun (???).

When the patient arrived in Taiwan, he already had a severe case of pneumonia and was immediately admitted to an intensive care unit.

He passed away on Jan. 9, Lo said. The man's death is the first from COVID-19 to be reported in Taiwan for January.

The CECC has been unable to determine which variant of the COVID-19 virus he was infected with, but as the 21 travelers from Vietnam who tested positive after arriving in Taiwan in December were all infected with the Delta variant, it is most likely he was also a Delta case, Lo said.

To date, Taiwan has confirmed 17,624 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in early 2020, of which 14,665 are domestic infections. A total of 61 domestic cases have been recorded in January so far, all but six linked to Taoyuan International Airport.

The country has recorded 851 deaths related to COVID-19.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel