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Two more China Airlines cargo pilots test positive for COVID-19

ROC Central News Agency

04/25/2021 04:42 PM

Taipei, April 25 (CNA) Taiwan reported three new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, including two pilots at China Airlines (CAL) whose source of infection remains unclear, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

One of the new cases is a Taiwanese man in his 50s who works as a cargo pilot at CAL, said Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, at a press briefing.

The man flew to the United States on assignment on April 13, returned on April 18, and tested negative for COVID-19 on April 21 after completing three days in quarantine.

Under current regulations, all flight crew have to quarantine for three days after returning from assignments and are tested for COVID-19 when they finish quarantine.

The man was tested for the disease again a day later, as he was previously in contact with a CAL pilot who was confirmed with COVID-19 in Australia. This test came back positive, Chen said.

However, after the man was admitted to hospital, another test result came back negative and he also tested negative for antibodies.

This has raised the possibility that his one positive test result was a false positive, and so the CECC is trying to determine if he is or was infected with the disease, Chen said.

The other case linked to CAL reported Sunday involves another cargo pilot at the company, a Taiwanese man in his 30s. He flew to Germany on April 18, returned on April 22, and received a COVID-19 test on April 24 after finishing quarantine.

His test results came back positive on Sunday, Chen said.

Including the two cases reported Sunday, seven CAL cargo pilots have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week, and so has the teenage son of one of the pilots.

These include two Taiwanese pilots who flew to the U.S. together, two Indonesian pilots (one of whom was confirmed with COVID-19 in Australia) who both visited a mosque in Taipei, and three other Taiwanese pilots.

The CECC has not yet been able to determine how the seven pilots were infected, and so is conducting polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and antibody tests on 1,272 employees at CAL and the pilots' confirmed contacts.

All testing of CAL employees is being conducted at Taoyuan General Hospital, and the employees will be able to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine when they get tested so they don't have to arrange another trip to the hospital, Chen said.

When asked if this means the employees will be essentially compelled to get a vaccine shot, Chen said they will be given a choice as to whether they want to be vaccinated.

In addition to testing efforts, the CECC has also conducted genome sequencing on the viruses found in four of the eight cases linked to CAL, CECC official Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said Sunday at the same briefing.

The results show that they were all infected with a variant of the virus first found in the United Kingdom that has since spread globally. Research has shown that the variant spreads more easily and is also deadlier than previous strains, Lo said.

Based on the findings, the CECC is not ruling out the possibility that this is a cluster infection, Lo said, but it has not yet established whether these cases are related.

The third COVID-19 case reported Sunday was an imported case, involving a Taiwanese man in his 40s, according to the CECC.

The man traveled to Mexico for business in February, made a brief stop in the U.S. in mid-April, then returned to Taiwan on April 18. He was tested for COVID-19 because he had a fever and cough during quarantine, and his results came back positive on Sunday.

The CECC is monitoring the health of the 34 colleagues he traveled with abroad, all of whom are currently in quarantine.

To date, Taiwan has recorded 1,100 cases of COVID-19, 977 of which have been classified as imported. Of the total, 1,045 have recovered, 12 have died and 43 are in hospital, according to CECC statistics as of Sunday.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected over 145.9 million people in 193 countries and regions, with more than 3.1 million fatalities, CECC data shows.

(By Chiang Yi-ching)


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