TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced two new domestic coronavirus cases, a doctor and a nurse who work in a northern Taiwan hospital that treats coronavirus patients, marking the first physician to be infected in Taiwan since the start of the outbreak and the first domestic transmission of 2021.
On Tuesday (Jan. 12), Health Minister and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced two new domestic and two new imported COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 838 cases. The domestic cases include a doctor and a nurse, while the imported cases include a Taiwanese citizen who recently returned from the U.S. and a British national arriving from his home country.
According to Chen, Case No. 838 is a physician from a hospital in northern Taiwan who had been caring for confirmed COVID-19 cases. On Jan. 8, he began to develop a cough and fever.
He underwent a coronavirus test on Jan. 10 and tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 11.
Chen said that Case No. 839 is a nurse who is the girlfriend of the doctor and lives at the same residence. She works at the same hospital but did not care for the same coronavirus patients as the doctor.
On Jan. 9, she began to suffer a cough and fever. As she was listed as a contact of the doctor, she was tested for the virus on Jan. 11 and was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Jan. 12.
Chen said that the doctor had cared for a number of severely ill coronavirus patients, and it is not yet certain which patient transmitted the virus to him. According to Chen, the two had a Ct level of 15 and are considered to be in an "early stage of infection."
The doctor's diagnosis marks the first time since the start of the outbreak that a physician has been infected by a patient in Taiwan. This also marks the first local case in 2021, with the most recent being Dec. 22, when Case No. 771 broke Taiwan's streak of 253 days without a domestic infection.
CECC advisor Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said that the doctor was not caring for the critically ill British patient who recently arrived in Taiwan and tested positive for the mutant strain of the coronavirus from the U.K.
In response to the incident, the CECC has listed 464 hospital contacts for the two cases. They have already been tested for the coronavirus, and the results were all negative.
In addition, it has listed 56 community contacts, of whom 14 have been tested, with one testing positive (Case No. 839), while the other 13 are awaiting results. The remaining 42 are currently undergoing testing.
Chen stated that after receiving notification of the confirmed case from the hospital on Monday, the CECC immediately arranged for a disease prevention physician to investigate the situation at the hospital, and, at the same time, CECC advisor Chang was present to provide guidance.
In addition, meetings were held on Monday evening and Tuesday morning to discuss the situation and formulate epidemic prevention measures. The following measures are being implemented:
- Patients can leave the hospital but cannot come back in.
- Thirty-nine doctors and nurses have been listed as contacts and been told to enter home isolation.
- The outpatient and emergency departments are operating as usual.
- All new visits have been canceled, and among current visitors, only one person is allowed to accompany a patient and must have checked in under a real-name registration system.
- Related patients are to be moved to single isolation wards for 14 days of observation.
- All staff at the hospital will be tested again after three days.
As for the day's two imported coronavirus cases, Case No. 836 is a Taiwanese woman in her 60s who has lived in the U.S. for an extended period of time. She returned to Taiwan on Jan. 5 to visit relatives.
On Jan. 10, she began to experience a cough, runny nose, and sputum. The health department arranged for her to be tested for the disease, and she was confirmed to have COVID-19 on Jan. 11.
Since she had been in quarantine for two days before her symptoms began, the health department has not listed any contacts in her case.
Case No. 837 is a British male in his 30s who came to Taiwan to engage in business negotiations on Dec. 29. During quarantine, he was tested for the virus, but the results were negative.
Just as his quarantine was set to expire, he was tested again on Jan. 11, and the results came back positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 12. Since is asymptomatic and did not come in contact with others during his quarantine period, no contacts have been listed.
Since the outbreak began, Taiwan has carried out 133,005 COVID-19 tests, with 130,713 coming back negative. Out of the 838 officially confirmed cases, 741 were imported, 58 were local, 36 came from the Navy's "Goodwill Fleet," two were from the cargo pilot cluster, one is an unresolved case, and one (Case No. 530) was removed as a confirmed case.
Up until now, seven individuals have succumbed to the disease, while 730 have been released from hospital isolation, leaving 101 patients still undergoing treatment in Taiwan.