CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan reports 61 new cases of latest COVID Omicron subvariants

Sixty-one people who recently arrived in Taiwan were found to be infected with either the Omicron BA.4 or BA.5 subvariant of the COVID-19 virus, but no domestic cases of those new subvariants have been detected so far, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday.

Genome sequencing conducted in the cases of 120 passengers, who had tested positive upon arrival between June 10 and June 18, found that eight of them were infected with the Omicron BA.4 subvariant, 53 had contracted the BA.5, and 59 had the BA.2, said Lo Yi-chun (???), deputy head of the CECC's medical response division.

To date, Taiwan has recorded 19 cases of BA.4 and 107 cases of BA.5, all of which were among incoming travelers, Lo said.

The BA.4 cases were travelers from the United States, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Chile, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates, he said.

The cases of BA.5 were among arrivals from the U.S., Germany, Spain, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Poland, Hungary, France, South Africa, El Salvador, Malaysia, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Denmark, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Indonesia, India, Belgium, Norway, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, 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 the first Omicron variant, according to the CECC.

The two latest subvariants have caused a surge in COVID-19 cases and higher hospitalization rates in some of the 60 countries where they have been found so far, the CECC said, citing World Health Organization (WHO) data.

Around a quarter of Omicron cases worldwide are now caused by the BA.5 subvariant, and 9 percent by the BA.4, Lo said, adding that while the two subvariants are spreading, it has not been an "explosive" increase.

In Taiwan, close contacts of travelers who are determined to be BA.4 or BA.5 cases are required to take an additional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, he said.

Close contacts include people who had traveled with the infected person or are living in the same home, Lo said.

There have been no domestic cases of BA.4 or BA.5 in Taiwan, so far, according to Lo.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel