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Virus Outbreak: Flight transfers via Taiwan banned

CASE COUNT RISES: One of the new domestic cases is a nurse at a long-term care center, but so far tests on all the residents and other staff have been negative

By Lee I-chia / Taipei Times Staff reporter

Flight transits through all Taiwanese airports would be banned for two weeks, starting tomorrow, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday as it announced 16 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the nation’s total to 169.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), head of the centre, said all flight transits would be banned through April 7.

In light of the rapidly increasing number of imported COVID-19 cases, there was a need to further reduce cross-border travel and the risk of disease transmission, the centre said.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration has informed airlines about the new measures, and anyone who has not boarded their flight by 12 is tomorrow in Taipei would not be permitted to make a connection in Taiwan, said Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥), deputy head of the centre.

The number of travellers entering Taiwan dropped from about 9,000 people on Thursday to about 5,000 people on Saturday, the majority of whom are Taiwanese and a very few Alien Resident Certificate (ARC) or special permit holders.

Information on all returning travellers who are being placed under mandatory home quarantine is being synced with the National Police Agency’s “M-Police” mobile phone integrated query system so that when police conduct spot checks, they can easily identify people who are under quarantine, Chen Tsung-yen said.

The health minister said the 16 latest cases were 13 imported ones and three domestic, including a nurse at a long-term care centre, the health minister said.

Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元) said the nurse, who is in her 20s and had not been abroad recently, developed a fever, weakness and dizziness on March 12, sought treatment on Monday and Friday last week, and tested positive on Saturday.

All 81 people at the care centre — 53 residents and 28 staff — were tested by the CECC on Saturday night, and the results so far have all been negative, he said.

The care centre’s residents were all relocated to single rooms at a hospital and two quarantine centres yesterday afternoon, while the staff were ordered to isolate at home for 14 days, Hsueh said.

Chen Shih-Chung said the centre took immediate action after the nurse tested positive out of concern that as a long-term care facility, her workplace could lead to a cluster of cases, and employees of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Taoyuan General Hospital and Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital worked overnight to complete the testing.

The other two domestic cases are a German researcher and an Austrian researcher who attended a meeting with the nation’s 124th case, another researcher at the same institute — and a professor who visited the US from March 1 to March 10 and tested positive yesterday, he said.

Centres for Disease Control (CDC) Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said that as the professor was the first to experience COVID-19 symptoms — on March 14 — authorities consider him to be the source of infection for four cases at the institute.

Of Taiwan’s confirmed cases, 36 are domestic and 133 imported, but the infection source of six of the domestic cases is not yet known, including the nurse’s, while the first three did not lead to further infections, Chen Shih-Chung said.

The remaining three — the 100th, 134th and 156th — might have higher risks of transmission in local communities, so the CECC is conducting contact investigations to clarify them, he said.

“We still define the current situation as sporadic local transmission,” he said when reporters asked if Taiwan has entered the “community spread” stage.

News Source : Taipei Times