COVID-19 infections rise to 53 in Taiwan with confirmation of 3 new cases

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Three new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease have been confirmed in Taiwan, all of which are believed to have been imported, bringing the total number in the country to 53, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Saturday.

The three patients are all men in their 30s, two Taiwanese and one Dutch, and they have recent history of travel to Europe, said Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) at a press briefing at which he also announced that air travelers from 27 European countries who board their planes after 2 p.m. Saturday (Taiwan time) will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival in Taiwan.

Chen, who heads the CECC, said the 51st coronavirus case in Taiwan is a Dutch pilot with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, who was in Austria March 2-6, before arriving in Taiwan from the Netherlands on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the pilot went to a hospital emergency room, complaining of breathing difficulties, tightness in the chest and fatigue, and was diagnosed with pneumonia.

The patient was tested on Thursday and results on Saturday confirmed that he had contracted COVID-19, Chen said, adding that the man is now in hospital quarantine.

According to a preliminary investigation, the pilot had contact with 28 people, 14 of whom have already left the country, Chen said.

The majority of those 14 people were KLM flight crew, and the CECC is working to notify them, via the airline, of possible contagion, Chen said.

The 52nd new coronavirus patient, meanwhile, is a man from northern Taiwan who traveled with two friends to Switzerland via Turkey on Feb. 28, Chen said.

According to the CECC, the group traveled by bus to France on Feb. 29 for a skiing trip, returned to Switzerland on March 7, then flew to Taiwan via Turkey, arriving March 8.

The man subsequently developed symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, fever and fatigue, and was tested for the coronavirus when he sought treatment at a hospital on Thursday.

On Saturday, it was confirmed that the man had contracted COVID-19, and he is being currently treated in a negative-pressure isolation room in hospital, the Chen said.

He said the CECC is trying to trace 39 people with whom the man came into contact, including his travel companions, passengers on the same flights, co-workers and medical personnel.

The 53rd patient is also a man from northern Taiwan, who took a business trip to the German cities of Munich and Nuremberg Feb. 22 to March 6, the CECC said.

After returning to Taiwan, the man developed a sore throat and cough, and was tested for the virus on Wednesday. His diagnosis was confirmed on Saturday, and he is also being treated in a negative-pressure isolation room in hospital, the CECC said.

So far, the CECC said, it has identified 15 people who came in contact with the 53rd patient, and is still tracing his movements in the period after he returned to Taiwan.

The CECC thinks that all three cases were imported, based on the patients’ travel history and when they began to show symptoms, Chen said.

Meanwhile, the CEEC now requires all passengers arriving from 27 European countries, including the United Kingdom, to remain in home quarantine for 14 days, in light of the escalation of the outbreak in Europe, he said.

At a press conference last week, Chen said Europe was likely to be hit by a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases, with the number soon surpassing those in Asia.

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