Taiwan, Philippines disagree on where man contracted coronavirus

Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (CNA file photo)
Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (CNA file photo)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan on Friday revealed more details about a coronavirus case that it believes was imported from the Philippines, an independent traveler who was diagnosed with the disease a day earlier after a recent trip to the neighboring country.

Philippine health officials, however say he likely contracted the virus in Taiwan, before entering their country.

The 38-year-old man, now placed in a negative-pressure isolation room at a hospital, was confirmed as Taiwan’s 44th COVID-19 case on Thursday by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).

According to the CECC, the man from northern Taiwan visited the Philippines from Feb. 28 to March 3, and suffered from abdominal bloating and diarrhea on March 2 there.

He returned to Taiwan on Tuesday with a sore throat and fatigue, and went to see doctors at a clinic later that day. As his condition had not improved, he sought medical treatment on Wednesday at a hospital where he tested positive for the virus on Thursday, the CECC said.

Speaking at a news conference Friday, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said it was found that the man took part in local tours in Manila and had contact with 26 people.

According to Chuang, two of them have tested negative for the virus, while the others are awaiting the test results.

At the same time, 13 passengers who flew back to Taiwan with the man on the same flight have been required to undergo home isolation, Chuang said.

According to Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), the government has informed the Philippines of the man’s travel history and his current situation in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Philippine Secretary of Health Francisco Duque suggested at a news conference that the Taiwanese man might have contracted the disease before entering the country.

As the man had exhibited symptoms as early as March 2, he might have been infected with the virus before he arrived in the Philippines, Duque argued.

Echoing Duque’s view, Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the World Health Organization representative in the Philippines, said in most cases, people with COVID-19 display symptoms on the sixth or seventh day after infection, while the Taiwanese man began to show symptoms on the fourth day of his stay in the Philippines.

As of Friday, the Philippines had confirmed five novel coronavirus cases — a much smaller number compared with those confirmed in Northeast Asian countries.

Taiwan announced its 45th COVID-19 case on Friday.