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Two COVID cases linked to Taipei quarantine hotel

Case Nos. 16,859 and 16,870 stayed on same floor in adjacent rooms

Worker disinfecting quarantine hotel room. (Kaohsiung City Government photo)

Worker disinfecting quarantine hotel room. (Kaohsiung City Government photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Another imported COVID case has been reported in the same Taipei quarantine hotel for the second day in a row.

On Tuesday (Dec. 14), the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) reported that case No. 16,859, a Taiwanese woman in her 30s who had returned from Cambodia, was one of 10 imported infections announced that day. The woman is a breakthrough case because she received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Tests taken when she arrived in Taiwan on Nov. 26 and when her quarantine ended both came back negative. However, while undergoing self-health monitoring at home in Yilan County, she developed a sore throat on Monday (Dec. 13).

She underwent a test that day and was diagnosed with COVID on Tuesday. She has entered isolation and four people have been listed as contacts.

On Wednesday (Dec. 15), the CECC announced that case No. 16,870, a Taiwanese man in his 30s, was classified as one of seven imported cases that day. He is also considered a breakthrough infection, as he had been inoculated with two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

A test taken upon arrival from the U.S. on Dec. 5 came back negative for the virus. However, on Dec. 6, he began to experience a sore throat, including swelling and tenderness in his right tonsil.

He was tested for the virus on Tuesday and diagnosed with COVID on Wednesday. That same day, Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division, confirmed local media reports that the two cases had stayed on the same floor in adjacent rooms in the same epidemic prevention hotel.

Lo said that case No. 16.859 began to experience symptoms on the third day of self-health monitoring at home. There were four family members who had been staying with her, and they have since entered isolation and tested negative for the virus.

Yilan County's health department stated that case No. 16,859 seldom ventured out during her self-health monitoring. It only recorded her visiting one venue, which recorded her presence through a real-name registration system.

Yilan County officials said that it has already identified all of her contacts and completed its epidemiological investigation. They reassured the public that it had not announced her movements because all her contacts had been identified.

As for the hotel, Lo said a total of 11 people had stayed on the same floor, including the two cases and nine on other floors. Of these 11 travelers, case No. 16,870 is the only one who had tested positive while still staying in the hotel.

There are also 12 employees in the hotel who have been told to begin self-health monitoring. They have all received two doses of COVID vaccines, with nine having tested negative for the virus and three still awaiting the results of their tests.

Lo said an investigation will be carried out, including a review of surveillance camera footage, to determine if the two cases had been to the same areas of the hotel. In addition, genetic sequencing will be carried out to determine if the strains contracted by the two travelers are a match.

He stated that if the two are confirmed to have been infected with the same viral strain through genetic sequencing, it indicates that there has been cross-infection. Lo said that in that case, one of the cases could be reclassified as a local infection.

As a precaution, all the remaining travelers have been moved from the hotel to quarantine centers or other epidemic prevention hotels to ride out the rest of their quarantines. Lo called on the public to wait for the results of the investigation before jumping to conclusions about the source of the infections.