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Delta case imported to Taiwan from China points to cluster in Fujian

COVID case from Xiamen indicates delta cluster in Fujian could be larger than reported

Crew loads boxes on passenger plane converted for cargo service. (Facebook, Xiamen Airlines photo)

Crew loads boxes on passenger plane converted for cargo service. (Facebook, Xiamen Airlines photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An imported COVID case announced on Friday (Aug. 20) confirms earlier reports of an under-reported cluster infection of the delta variant in China's Fujian Province.

At a Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) press conference on Friday, a reporter asked if a confirmed imported case from China diagnosed with the delta variant was indicative of a new wave of infections spreading across the communist country. Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division, responded by saying the latest imported infection from China confirmed with the delta strain is case No. 15,936.

Lo said that she is a Taiwanese woman in her 40s who returned from China on July 30. She had a sore throat and headache on Aug. 10 and underwent testing on Aug. 11.

She was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Aug. 13, with a Ct value of 17. On Friday, Lo confirmed that she was among 12 imported cases diagnosed between Aug. 13-19 that was positive for the Delta variant.

Lo said that from early April to late July, she lived in Jinjiang City, which is a county-level city of Fujian Province's Quanzhou City. The city sits directly across Weitou Bay from Taiwan's outer island of Kinmen.

He stressed that prior to departing China, she had not traveled to known hotspots for delta in China such as Nanjing or Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province. According to Lo, the CECC carried out careful analysis of the sequence from the delta strain the woman had contracted.

The result was characteristics of the delta strain detected in the woman were different from the cluster in Pingtung County and in imported cases from other countries such as the U.S. and Indonesia. Therefore, he concluded that she could not have contracted the virus while in Taiwan.

Because Taiwan does not have data on delta sequences from China, Lo said the CECC cannot compare it to other cases from China. Lo pointed out the woman flew to Taiwan from Fujian's coastal city of Xiamen.

He noted that in late July, there had been reports of a cluster infection at Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport and Xiamen Airlines. Lo said it is possible that she might have contracted the virus while she prepared to board her flight at Xiamen's airport.

However, because he does not have information on potential contacts in China, the CECC cannot be certain of the exact source of her infection in China. Lo pledged that if more information on the case becomes available, he will announce it to the public.

According to a reported from China's state-run Xinhua, four people tested positive on PCR tests for COVID in Xiamen on July 30, the day case No. 15,936 departed for Taiwan. Xinhua cited the municipal headquarters on COVID-19 prevention and control as saying the cases included a "crew member from an international cargo flight and his three members."

That case number was cut in half in a second report issued later that evening by Xinhua, which stated the "confirmed cases" were a pilot, who was a member of an international cargo flight for Xiamen Airlines, and his father. However, as has been the practice in China through most of the pandemic, the pilot's son and mother were subtracted from the day's case count because they were "asymptomatic." China does not include asymptomatic individuals in confirmed case number totals.

Since July 30, China has not reported new cases in Xiamen, but according to Flying, as of Aug. 6, "Two-thirds of flights were canceled in Xiamen" as part of COVID restrictions. Nevertheless, Xiamen is pushing ahead with the China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) slated for Sept. 8-11.

Updated : 2021-10-25 19:30 GMT+08:00