[Last update: November 26 at 19:30]
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Representative to the U.S. Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is undergoing home quarantine after a cluster of coronavirus cases were reported at the de facto Taiwanese embassy in Washington, D.C.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said via a statement on Thursday (Nov. 26) that as many as 11 employees at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) have contracted the coronavirus over the past few days. Two cases were reported on Tuesday, and nine more were confirmed after the office tested the contacts of the first two.
Hsiao tested negative for the virus, according to MOFA Spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安). The representative is in good health but has to self-isolate for two weeks after coming into contact with infected employees, added Ou.
Diplomatic work will not be disrupted in spite of the cluster at TECRO, said Hsiao via Facebook. All the staff members at TECRO have worked and lived in a risky environment after the pandemic swept the U.S. in March, but they have not slackened, she added.
All the infected employees are suffering minor symptoms, according to Ou.
According the ministry, TECRO has halted in-person consular services, and the consular desk will remain closed to the public. The office only accepts mail-in applications.
Employees that are ill have been asked to self-isolate and work remotely, and TECRO has adjusted its operations to make sure core business is not affected, the ministry said. Other employees will undergo a test in the coming days, with the office building to be disinfected over the weekend.
The ministry said Wednesday (Nov. 25) that the two employees whose infections had been confirmed the previous day had not had any direct contact with the Taiwanese delegation led by Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Chen Chern-chyi (陳正祺). Chen and the rest of his delegation visited Washington last week for a new round of U.S.-Taiwan economic talks, and they are now quarantining in Taipei.
With regard to feasts and other events recently hosted by TECRO, Ou said most activities had been held outdoors and that social distancing was observed. She added that the ministry has arranged for an online consultation meeting between TECRO and experts from the Central Epidemic Command Center on Friday (Nov. 27).
TECRO reported one coronavirus case in October, and its consular desk was temporarily closed. The U.S. remains the epicenter of the coronavirus, with an average of 100,000 Americans infected daily in the past two weeks.