Taiwanese man listed as positive asymptomatic case after entering China

33 contacts identified, one healthcare worker being tested for suspected symptoms

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Security official stands guard at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. 

Security official stands guard at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Wednesday (Sept. 30) announced that a Taiwanese citizen has been classified as an asymptomatic case of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19), while one health care worker is being tested for suspected symptoms.

During his weekly press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced that a Taiwanese citizen has tested positive for both the COVID-19 virus and antibodies. Chen said the case is a man in his 50s who had been doing business in Xiamen, China for a long period of time before returning to Taiwan in January.

In June, the man returned to Xiamen to continue to conduct business. On Aug. 19, he again returned to Taiwan, this time with his wife accompanying him.

On Sept. 21, he flew back to Xiamen. Between Sept. 21 and Sept. 28, he underwent several polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serum antibody tests.

The results of the antibody test on Sept. 22 came back negative for IgM and IgG, but his total antibody test was positive. As for his PCR screening results, out of examinations administered on Sept. 21, 22, 24, and 26, only the test on the 26th came back positive.

Test results carried out on Sept. 27 and 28 have not yet been released. According to the CECC, the businessman and his wife were asymptomatic from their arrival on Aug. 19 to the end of their quarantine period.

The health department has identified 33 persons who came in contact with the case, four of whom came near him when he sought medical treatment in Taiwan. Three others were quarantine hotel staff members.

As all of the contacts were deemed to have taken adequate protective measures, they are only being asked to undergo self-health monitoring. However, because one of the healthcare workers who came in contact with the man reported experiencing a headache, they will undergo testing for COVID-19.

Also among the contacts include 17 passengers who sat in the rows directly in front of and behind the man on the flight from China to Taiwan but have not crossed Taiwan's border. As the nine crew members who were on the flight took appropriate protective measures, they are also only being asked to start self-health monitoring.

The health department is continuing its search for additional persons who may have come in contact with the man.

In a break with World Health Organization standards and most countries around the world, China does not include asymptomatic coronavirus cases among its list of confirmed cases. On Feb. 6 of this year, China's National Health Commission (NHC) issued an edict declaring that asymptomatic patients who test positive for the coronavirus will not be classified as a "confirmed case," unless they have "clinical manifestations" (symptoms).

This would appear to be a significant omission on China's part as scientific studies are finding that around 40 percent of patients infected with the coronavirus are asymptomatic. Other studies have found that up to 50 percent of COVID-19 infections are transmitted by asymptomatic cases.