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Taiwan reports first case of mutant South African Covid strain

Eswatini man becomes first person in Taiwan to test positive for South African coronavirus variant

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Healthcare worker sanitizes her hands before conducting COVID-19 tests at Dis-Chem drive-through testing station in Cape Town, South Africa....

Healthcare worker sanitizes her hands before conducting COVID-19 tests at Dis-Chem drive-through testing station in Cape Town, South Africa.... (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan on Wednesday (Jan. 13) reported its first imported case of the new mutant coronavirus strain from South Africa.

On Wednesday, Health Minister and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced that a man from Eswatini who had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19 on Jan. 1 has been found to have the South African variant of the virus.

The new strain, identified as B.1.351, is 1.5 times more transmissible than the original version that came out of Wuhan, China in 2019, according to the World Health Organization.

Case No. 813, is an Eswatini man in his 30s who came to Taiwan for work on Dec. 24 of last year. He had submitted negative results of a coronavirus test taken within three days of his flight and went directly to a quarantine facility upon arrival in Taiwan.

Six days later, he began experiencing a headache, runny nose, and nasal congestion. As he had not come in contact with any other persons during his quarantine, there were no contacts listed for his case.

On Wednesday, Chen said that samples of the virus taken from the man had shown to be a match with the South African strain of the virus on Jan. 12. Since October 2020, samples from 38 patients have been analyzed. Five were found to be a match with the U.K. variant, and now one has been found to be the South African version.

Because of the close transportation links between South Africa and Eswatini, the new strain has begun to spread among citizens of Taiwan's diplomatic ally. South Africa is experiencing a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, with an average of 17,021 new cases added a day, accounting for 70 percent of all new cases in the continent.

South Africa has confirmed 1,259,748 COVID-19 cases and 34,334 deaths. Eswatini has 11,919 confirmed coronavirus cases and 319 deaths.

At least 12 countries around the world have reported the detection of the South African mutation of COVID-19.

However, the current data is limited. The clinical symptoms and the impact of the vaccine still need to be confirmed by research.

Chen announced that effective on Thursday (Jan. 14), travelers who arrive in Taiwan with a travel history from South Africa, Eswatini, or the U.K. within the past 14 days, must stay in a designated quarantine center and undergo testing for the virus.

When their quarantines end, they will all be tested again for the virus. If the test results are negative, the passengers can return home to begin seven days of self-health management.