CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan confirms 2 new domestic COVID cases related to airport

Taiwan on Saturday confirmed two new domestic COVID-19 cases linked to Taoyuan International Airport, involving an airport security guard and a taxi driver responsible for transporting arriving travelers to quarantine locations.

The two cases were first reported late Friday, but were officially included in the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) case count on Saturday, bringing the number of cases in the airport cluster to 13.

Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (???), who also heads the CECC, said the security guard, a woman in her 50s, developed nasal congestion and a runny nose on Tuesday, while the male driver, also in his 50s, has so far been asymptomatic.

More information on the security guard will be available once genome sequencing is completed, Chen said.

Both cases reported Saturday were breakthrough infections.

The woman had received two Moderna vaccine doses and then a booster shot of the same brand on Dec. 29, 2021, CECC spokesperson Chuang Jen-hsiang (???) said, while the taxi driver got a Moderna booster shot on Dec. 5 following two AstraZeneca doses.

There had been questions the previous day whether the taxi driver was infected, but he was confirmed positive on Saturday.

Chen said the man was tested twice and had cycle threshold (CT) values of 31 and 34.2, indicating a low viral load and the likelihood that he was infected a while ago.

Of his five family members tested for COVID-19, four tested negative and the results of the fifth person were not yet available, said Chen, who said the driver's case probably posed little threat to the community.

According to Victor Wang (???), the CECC's on-site chief at the airport, about 9,000 individuals who work at the airport are currently being tested for the disease.

On Friday, Chen said the first person infected in the cluster was likely an airport cleaner - a woman in her 50s who was confirmed Wednesday to have contracted the disease.

That was because the woman tested positive for anti-nucleocapsid (N) antibodies, and she also had the highest CT value among the people in the cluster.

Chen added Saturday that she likely caught the virus while cleaning a bathroom on Dec. 24 used by a passenger who later tested positive for COVID-19.

After catching the virus, the woman developed symptoms on Dec. 27, and then passed on the disease to one of her co-workers, Chen said, though he was hoping genome sequencing would provide a clearer picture of how the infection spread.

To date, 14 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the airport outbreak, though only 13 have been listed as a cluster. The one case left out was not considered part of the cluster by the CECC because it was not linked to the cleaning staff infection chain.

This separate case involved a 58-year old taxi driver who was transporting arriving travelers to quarantine locations. He was confirmed to have caught the disease earlier in the week.

On Saturday, Chen said genome sequencing showed that the driver's infection was almost identical to another recently confirmed case, a traveler who happened to be one of his customers on Dec. 26.

It was very likely that the 58-year-old driver caught the disease from his passenger, he said.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel