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Taiwan reports 1st case of mutant UK Covid strain

Teen who arrived on flight from London tests positive for mutant strain of coronavirus

(NIAID image)

(NIAID image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan on Wednesday (Dec. 30) reported its first imported case of the new mutant coronavirus strain from the U.K.

The new strain, identified as B.1.1.7, is up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original version that came out of Wuhan, China, last year. On Wednesday, Health Minister and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that case No. 792, a male in his teens who arrived on the ill-fated flight from London on Sunday (Dec. 27), has tested positive for the new strain of the virus.

China Airlines Flight CI 082 arrived at the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 5:36 p.m. on Sunday. Upon arrival, the passengers and crew were screened for symptoms, and those who showed potential signs of COVID-19 were tested on the spot.

Case No. 792 had submitted a negative result for a test taken within three days of his flight. However, when he arrived at the airport on Sunday, he was found to have a 39-degree Celsius fever.

On Monday (Dec. 28), the passenger tested positive for COVID-19. During a press conference on Wednesday (Dec. 30), Chen stated that after comparing the genome of the sample taken from case No. 792 and the new strain in the U.K., they found it was a match.

As two other passengers had tested positive for COVID-19 on that day, Taiwan's two major airlines announced that they will suspend all flights to the U.K. on Jan. 1, 2021. After discovering that at least one of the passengers from Flight CI 082 has been infected with the new strain, Chen announced that all foreigners who do not hold a residence permit will be barred from entering Taiwan, also effective Jan. 1.

Chen said the CECC is carrying out a genetic sequence comparison on the other recently diagnosed patients to see if they have also contracted the new strain.