First Wuhan coronavirus death in Taiwan reported in taxi driver over 60 years old

The man is one of two new confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus on Sunday

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Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The first death in Taiwan from the COVID-19 outbreak was reported to be a male taxi driver over 60 years old with no recent travel history, CNA reported on Sunday (Feb. 16).

The man is one of two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, according to the latest announcement by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), CNA said. The other case is a family member who lives with him.

Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said in a press conference Sunday evening that there were two new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total in Taiwan to 20, and neither newly infected patient was an intimate contact of an earlier patient, Chen added. The man who died had a history of type B hepatitis and diabetes.

The now-deceased man began to cough on Jan. 27, but he did not see a doctor until Feb. 3, when he finally went due to shortness of breath, according to the report. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and then hospitalized in an isolation ward. The man died of sepsis caused by pneumonia on Feb. 15.

The health minister said that as the man had no history of traveling to other countries, obtaining a specimen from him was originally not considered, the report said. However, Chen added, considering 50 percent of confirmed cases in Singapore also lacked a travel history, recent overseas excursions should not be the sole criteria for testing for COVID-19.

Most of the man's customers were reportedly people who have a history of traveling to China, Hong Kong, and Macao, according to the news agency. Health authorities have begun to trace his contacts, including looking into his communication records, his hospital visits, and even surveillance camera data in the hope of gaining a full handle on his interactions, the report said.

Chen said that of the 79 contacts health authorities traced, 73 have been screened for the disease, of whom 60 have been confirmed as negative and one positive. The rest were still being tested, he added.