TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A dozen cases tied to a cluster infection in Kaohsiung have been diagnosed with the BA.2 Omicron variant, and one Indonesian worker may have spread the highly transmissible version of the virus to Taipei.
Of the 72 cases tied to the Port of Kaohsiung COVID cluster, 12 have been found to have the BA.2 Omicron variant. This version of Omicron is currently much less common than its sibling BA.1, but it has started to spread rapidly in Europe and appears to be even more contagious.
On Thursday (Jan. 27), the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that genetic sequencing was carried out on 72 cases tied to the Port of Kaohsiung cluster, including a family of three, three employees from an ironworks, migrant workers, and a National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology student, among others. Of these cases, 12 have been found to be carrying the BA.2 Omicron variant, and there are concerns that recent cases found at Xiaogang High School, Municipal Dawanguomin Junior High School, and a steakhouse could also be infected with it.
In an attempt to halt the spread of the virus, Kaohsiung has adopted a three-stage method of testing contacts that includes two PCR tests and one rapid antigen test. More than 20,000 people have been tested in the port area within eight days, with a particular focus on port workers in the "red zone."
At a press conference that day, Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said that in the "red zone," 10 of 12,469 people tested had tested positive, a positivity rate of 0.08%. Chen pointed out that the key characteristic of Omicron is a very fast onset, usually on the second or third day after infection.
The mayor said that people become contagious almost immediately and pointed out most have only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic.
In addition, at 12 p.m. on Jan. 18, an Indonesian member of a ship's crew (Taiwan's case No. 18,639), took a high-speed train from Kaohsiung to Nangang in Taipei. He headed back to Kaohsiung at 4 p.m. after spending two hours in the city.
His movements during that period are not yet known, as an epidemiological investigation is still underway. Because he is tied to the Port of Kaohsiung cluster, it is likely he is infected with BA.2 and that he may have brought it to Taipei during his trip on Jan. 18.