CECC isolates 103 for contact with Australian COVID-19 case

Brett Dean (Photo courtesy of the National Symphony Orchestra)
Brett Dean (Photo courtesy of the National Symphony Orchestra)

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Taiwanese authorities have placed 103 people under home isolation after they had contact with an Australian classical musician who was diagnosed with COVID-19 following a Feb. 23-March 2 visit to Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Friday.

At a CECC press conference, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said 147 people have been identified as having had contact with the man, who performed at the National Concert Hall in Taipei on Feb. 28 and March 1.

While the CECC declined to name the man, he was identified in media reports as the composer and violist Brett Dean, which has since been confirmed by his agents.

According to Chuang, the CECC has placed 103 people under home isolation in connection with the case, including 19 National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) musicians, 17 hotel staff, 15 drivers, eight reporters, three of the man’s friends and 18 passengers on the flight he took to Taiwan.

The remaining 23 people under isolation orders are audience members who came within two meters of the man during his Feb. 28 performance, Chuang said, adding that others who attended the performances should practice 14-day self-health management.

Regarding the man’s case, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said the overall risk of transmission is low, given that he spent most of his time in his hotel and conducting rehearsals, and did not use public transportation.

Despite the low risk level, Chen said the CECC has asked all NSO members who are employed as teachers to suspend classes for a period of two weeks.

Asked whether the CECC would make public the man’s movements, as it did with an Indonesian caregiver who contracted the virus in late February, Chen said that given the limited amount of time the man spent in public places, such a move was not warranted.

According to details the CECC provided on Thursday, the 58-year old musician departed London Feb. 22, and entered Taiwan the next day after transiting through Bangkok.

On Feb. 27, he sought medical attention at a clinic after developing a cough and runny nose, before departing Taiwan on EVA Air’s flight BR315 to Brisbane on Monday.

During the press conference, Chuang said the symptoms the man sought treatment for did not meet COVID-19 screening standards, and he was diagnosed with a common cold at the time.

The CECC said Thursday that the case was likely imported, as the man was already suffering from a mild cough when he arrived in Taiwan.

As of Friday, Taiwan had recorded 45 cases of COVID-19, including one fatality and 12 who have been discharged from the hospital after mandatory quarantine periods.

The Australian man’s case, which was diagnosed following his departure from Taiwan, is not reflected in Taiwan’s overall figure.