TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — During a press conference on Tuesday (May 11), the Minister of Health and Welfare and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) announced that with the outbreak of five local cases in Yilan and one case of unknown origin in New Taipei City, Taiwan has "entered community transmission."
In an interview with Hit FM on May 3, Chen said that two and a half months after the Taoyuan General Hospital cluster infection, Taiwan is faced with the China Airlines cargo pilot and Novotel hotel employee cluster infections. At the time, Chen was concerned about case No. 1,129, who is a housekeeping department employee of the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport Hotel.
Chen said 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. When it comes to the children of case No. 1,129, Chen warned that Taiwan is on the "verge of community transmission."
At a press conference on Tuesday, Chen announced five infections from a new local cluster, one from the China Airlines pilot cluster, one from an unknown source, and four imported cases. The seven local cases represent the highest number of local cases reported in a single day in Taiwan this year.
Chen pointed out that only one of these new cases was related to the China Airlines/Novotel cluster infection. Five new cases are tied to an arcade in Yilan's Luodong Township, while the source of infection of another case is still being investigated. The unidentified case is known to have visited a banquet hall, a massage parlor, and a restaurant in New Taipei.
The health minister said that the Yilan infections are separate incidents from the China Airlines/Novotel cases. When asked to clarify the definition of community transmission to avoid misunderstandings by the public, Chen at 2:34 p.m. stressed that the epidemic situation in Taiwan is "already no longer on the verge of community transmission and has now entered community transmission."
Regarding the source of the infections at the arcade in Yilan, Chen said that based on a preliminary investigation, there appears to be very little in terms of possible connections with the airline and hotel cases. As to whether there are as yet undiscovered links between the clusters, more investigation is needed.
Given that multiple infections were reported in two different locations that day, a member of the press asked Chen if this signifies that there is an invisible chain of transmission in the community. Chen responded by saying that it is difficult to determine, but he said he believes that "there are more or less some invisible carriers" and emphasized the importance of wearing masks and frequently washing hands to prevent the spread of the disease.
Chen said that because there are local cases with unknown sources of infection, the country has raised its epidemic warning to Level 2. He said that from May 11 to June 8, the CECC will monitor the situation with the local infections for four weeks and two infection cycles.