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Homeland Security

Two admirals removed from posts over COVID-19 infections on ship

ROC Central News Agency

04/21/2020 10:31 PM

Taipei, April 21 (CNA) Two Navy admirals have been removed from their posts pending further investigation into responsibility for a cluster COVID-19 coronavirus infection on a naval ship that has so far left 27 people infected with the virus, the nation's defense chief announced Tuesday.

Commander of Republic of China Naval Fleet Command Vice Admiral Kao Chia-pin (高嘉濱) and Rear Admiral Chen Tao-hui (陳道輝), head of the ROC Navy's Friendship fleet, are being punished for negligence that resulted in the cluster infections on a vessel that was part of a flotilla that visited the Pacific island of Palau, announced Defense Minister Yen De-fa (嚴德發).

They are deemed to be responsible for the infections, as they had failed to follow regulations in carrying out pandemic prevention measures on the three-ship-flotilla that visited Palau last month, according to Yen.

Some of the crew members did not wear surgical face masks at all times during the visit to Palau. Also, the fleet commander, Chen, already knew that a number of crewmen had developed fever during the month-long trip but did not report to his superiors as he should have, Yen said.

According to medical records released by the military, 148 people aboard the Panshi, the supply ship on which the cluster occurred, sought medical treatment 226 times during its month-long trip.

Aside from five visits for fevers, 10 were for upper respiratory tract symptoms.

Yen, meanwhile, issued an apology to the COVID-19-infected flotilla members.

He also apologized for causing disturbance to the Taiwanese public, since many of the 27 confirmed patients had already left their ships and returned to their homes around the country for three to four days prior to their diagnosis.

Yen said he has told President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) that he is willing to accept any form of punishment over the incident, including handing in his resignation.

The minister added that the investigation is still ongoing and that more could be punished in the future if they are found to have responsibility for the infections.

Yen made the remarks at an emergency press event late Tuesday night, which came only hours after the president earlier in the day demanded that the military thoroughly investigate and find those responsible.

The infections occurred on the Panshi, which was part of a naval three-ship "Fleet of Friendship" that visited Palau from March 12-15.

The Panshi, the Yueh Fei -- a Cheng Kung-class guided-missile frigate -- and the Kang Ding, a Lafayette-class frigate, departed Taiwan in early March for Palau and returned to their Zuoying military port base in Kaohsiung on April 9.

The crew of the three ships then remained on board for another six days in compliance with Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) quarantine requirements that passengers cannot disembark from ships until at least 30 days after leaving their most recent port of call.

They were finally allowed to leave the ships and return home on April 14 and 15.

On April 18, however, the CECC announced that three people aboard the Panshi had tested positive for COVID-19, and the number of confirmed cases had since risen to 27 as of Tuesday.

The 744 people aboard the three military vessels included naval officers, servicepersons and students in the naval and political warfare academics.

They are now being quarantined in seven different locations across the country.

The CECC originally suspected that the crew members contracted the virus during the fleet's goodwill visit to Palau. However, it later said that the health authorities are still investigating whether the crew contracted the virus locally or overseas.

(By Matt Yu and Joseph Yeh)


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