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Homeland Security

Possible COVID-19 cluster probed at Taoyuan airport hotel: CECC

ROC Central News Agency

04/29/2021 07:50 PM

Taipei, April 29 (CNA) A probe is underway to determine whether there is a COVID-19 cluster at an airport hotel in Taoyuan, where an employee tested positive on Thursday, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

The employee is one of the latest cases linked to China Airlines (CAL), a major carrier in Taiwan. He works as a housekeeping manager at Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, where many CAL flight crew members quarantine after returning to Taiwan.

Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said on Thursday that when a guest checks out of the hotel, their room is disinfected. Thirty minutes later, the room is cleaned by housekeeping staff and then checked by a manager.

"Based on this protocol, there is little chance he (the manager who tested positive Thursday) was infected through contact with contaminated surfaces," Chen said.

"We suspect that others (who work at the hotel) were infected first, and they infected the manager," he said.

As there could be a "chain of infection" within the hotel, with many areas contaminated, Chen said the CECC has decided to move roughly 400 staff members and hotel guests to government quarantine centers, where they will be tested for COVID-19.

The only exceptions are three employees at the hotel who have developed a fever and been sent to hospitals, as well as some pilots from foreign airlines who were staying at the hotel and are scheduled to depart Taiwan Thursday, Chen said.

Nearly all guests at the hotel are flight crew, of either CAL or foreign airlines. They stayed in one of the hotel's two buildings, with regular guests at the other building.

The manager, a Taiwanese man in his 40s, began to show symptoms of COVID-19 on April 17. He visited a clinic three times to seek medical attention from April 19-26.

On April 27, he went to a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia, testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. The man has been in an unstable condition and is now in an intensive care unit, Chen said.

The CECC is investigating where he has been in the past two weeks.

In addition to the manager, two other cases related to CAL were reported on Thursday. One is the wife of a cargo pilot who tested positive for COVID-19 on April 20, the other a cargo pilot who recently returned from the United States.

Including these cases, the number of COVID-19 infections linked to CAL has increased to 16 over a 10-day period.

These include eight Taiwanese cargo pilots; three relatives of Taiwanese cargo pilots; a hotel employee; two Indonesian cargo pilots, one of whom was confirmed with COVID-19 in Australia; and two relatives of one of them.

The CECC has so far been unable to determine how the pilots became infected.

Chen did say, however, that six of the infected Taiwanese pilots had stayed at Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, and it is possible that they were infected while there.

(By Chiang Yi-ching)


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