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CECC head says 2 weeks key to averting community transmission amid Taiwan clusters

Chen says key is to contain current cluster infections over next two weeks

CECC Head Chen Shih-Chung being interviewed on Hit FM. 

CECC Head Chen Shih-Chung being interviewed on Hit FM.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — During a radio talk show interview on Monday (May 3), the Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC Head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) warned that Taiwan is on the "verge of community transmission" and that the key to preventing this is containment.

In an interview with Hit FM on Monday, Chen said that two and a half months after the Taoyuan General Hospital cluster infection, Taiwan is now faced with the China Airlines cargo pilot and Novotel hotel employee cluster infections. In the case of the China Airlines pilot cluster, almost all pilots have been recalled and 700 tested, with no new cases reported recently.

However, as for the Novotel Hotel outbreak, there have been four confirmed cases thus far out of 207 employees, including a housekeeping supervisor (case No. 1,120), a catering department employee (case No. 1,127), and two housekeeping department employees (cases 1,128 and 1,129). What Chen said is worrying is that two family members of case No. 1,129, identified as cases 1,134 and 1,136, both had an extensive period of community activities during the infectious period, and not all community contacts have been identified.

Chen said that while case No. 1,135 is the husband of case No. 1,129 and is a retiree who mainly stayed at home, cases 1,134 and 1,136 are her adult children and are office workers with a large footprint. Currently, there have been 100 contacts listed in their cases.

What Chen said is especially concerning is that they rely heavily on public transportation to commute. He said that "fortunately, people using public transportation are required to wear masks," and he called on the public to continue to observe public policy and continue to properly wear masks when using mass transit.

Chen said that cases 1,133 and 1,137 are small children and because they did not go to a nursery, the risk to the community is low. However, when it comes to the children of case No. 1,129, Chen warned that Taiwan is on the "verge of community transmission."

The CECC head pointed out that the Mother's Day holiday is drawing near and reminded businesses and the public to follow real-name registration systems to facilitate contact tracing. Chen said that the CECC will be on a heightened state of alert until mid-May.

He said that if new cases arise among listed contacts for the hotel and airline cases, the monitoring period for the other contacts may have to be extended. Chen then tried to reassure the public by saying the "probability is very low" that these new cluster infections could spread to the community because the known contacts of confirmed cases are relatively few.