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Two colleagues of Taiwanese pilot among three new COVID-19 cases

ROC Central News Agency

12/20/2020 06:58 PM

Taipei, Dec. 20 (CNA) Two colleagues of a Taiwanese pilot who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday and an Indonesian man were the three new COVID-19 cases reported in Taiwan on Sunday, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

The new cases brought the total number in the country to 766, CECC spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said at a press conference.

The two colleagues of the Taiwanese pilot are a man from New Zealand in his 60s and a Japanese man in his 20s, both of whom are also pilots, Chuang said.

The three operated a cargo flight to the United States on Dec. 12, and returned to Taiwan on Dec. 16. That same day, the Taiwanese began to have a cough, runny nose, and a fever, and she was confirmed to be infected with COVID-19 on Friday.

The New Zealander and Japanese were thus tested for COVID-19 on Friday, and their results came back positive on Sunday, Chuang said.

According to Chuang, the New Zealander flew to Manila on a same-day return flight on Nov. 28, then flew to the U.S. on Nov. 29 and returned to Taiwan on Dec. 4.

His colleagues have told the CECC that he had a cough during the Dec. 12 flight but did not wear a mask at all times, Chuang said.

The man denied having symptoms during the flight, however, perhaps because people have different understandings of COVID-19 symptoms, Chuang said.

According to Chuang, the CECC thinks it is likely that the New Zealander was infected with COVID-19 when he went to the U.S. in late November.

As he was the only one of the three pilots to test positive for COVID-19 antibodies, and the three spent a considerable amount of time together in an enclosed space, the CECC believes he is likely the source of infection of the Taiwanese and Japanese pilot, Chuang said.

The New Zealander had a CT level of 24.9, while the Japanese pilot had a CT level of 15.2, Chuang added.

The Japanese pilot, meanwhile, traveled to the U.S. on Dec. 5 and returned to Taiwan on Dec. 7. He went to the U.S. again on Dec. 12, and he had a cough and mild diarrhea after he came back to Taiwan, according to Chuang.

The CECC has so far identified 87 people who have had contact with the three pilots. Of the group, 52 have already received a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, of which 19 have tested negative, and 54 have received an antibody test, of which none have tested positive.

The CECC is still tracking down possible contacts related to the airplane cluster, as the New Zealand man was active outside of his residence in northern Taiwan from Dec. 8 to 11 after completing his quarantine requirement. The man told CECC personnel that he did not keep track of where he went, so the CECC is still trying to determine the places he visited during that time, Chuang said.

The CECC, airlines and other related agencies will discuss whether the three-day quarantine required of pilots and five-day quarantine required of flight attendants after they return to Taiwan after an assignment is sufficient, Chuang said.

The Indonesian man in his 40s involved in the other case came to work in Taiwan on Dec. 3, with proof of a negative COVID-19 test result issued within three days of his flight, Chuang said.

As he was set to work on a ship, he was not required to quarantine at a designated center and instead spent the time at a hotel, according to Chuang.

After completing quarantine, he was arranged to be tested by his employer, and he was confirmed with the disease on Sunday, Chuang said.

Although the Indonesian man continued to stay at the hotel after his quarantine period ended, he interacted with eight others at the hotel who were also slated to work on the same ship, so these eight people have been asked to go back into quarantine, Chuang said.

Also on Sunday, Chuang reiterated that it was unlikely an Indian seaman, who arrived in Taiwan on Oct. 21 and tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday got the disease in Taiwan, because if he had, there would have been outbreaks at the quarantine hotel he stayed at and on the ship on which he worked.

The Indian, who is in his 30s, was in a quarantine hotel from the time he arrived on Oct. 21 until he started work on a Taiwanese boat on Nov. 26. The boat was at sea until Wednesday, when his broker had him take a COVID-19 test because he planned to return home in the coming days. The result came back positive on Saturday.

A total of 18 employees at the quarantine hotel and 21 colleagues of the Indian man have tested negative on PCR tests for COVID-19, and the results of their antibody tests have not yet come out, Chuang said.

To date, Taiwan has recorded 766 cases of COVID-19, 672 of which have been classified as imported. Of the total, 627 have recovered, 132 are in the hospital and seven have died, CECC data showed.

The Taiwanese pilot and the Japanese pilot are currently labeled as part of an aircraft cluster infection, and the CECC is still determining whether they will be counted as domestic or imported cases, according to Chuang.

According to CECC statistics as of Sunday, COVID-19 has infected over 75.4 million people in 191 countries and regions, with more than 1.68 million fatalities.

(By Chiang Yi-ching)

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