Taiwan’s Academia Sinica reports one COVID-19 infection

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan’s top research institute, Academia Sinica, has reported one case of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among its staff at a time when the number of confirmed cases in the country has increased due to a rise in imported cases involving Taiwanese people returning from overseas trips.

In a statement released by the institute’s epidemic control task force on Friday, Academia Sinica said the infected employee has been admitted to a hospital for treatment, and 16 people who had close contact with that person have been asked to undergo home quarantine.

In addition, the institute said another 25 colleagues who have been in close proximity of the working areas of the infected person have been asked to be quarantined at home.

On Friday, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced 27 new COVID-19 cases in Taiwan, the highest daily growth, pushing up the total to 135. Among the new cases, 24 (15 women and nine men) were imported, with the ages of those infected ranging from senior high school students to people in their 80s.

Due to concerns over the growing COVID-19 infections in Taiwan, starting Saturday, the Academia Sinica has closed its Ningnan Fine Arts Museum, Cai Yuanpei Memorial Hall and sports stadium to the public.

Speaking to reporters about its first confirmed case on Saturday, Chang Kang-wei (張剛維), head of Academia Sinica’s Department of General Affairs, said the work of the infected colleague did not involve any contact with people outside the institute.

Chang added that the infected person also did not engage in any epidemic prevention work or vaccine development.

He said the institution has strongly advised all of its staff not go abroad for the time being as the COVID-19 contagion has been escalating worldwide.

The Academic Sinica case was the latest prominent COVID-19 case in Taiwan after contract chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) reported on Wednesday that one of its employees had been infected with the coronavirus disease, resulting in 30 others being placed in home quarantine because they had close contact with that person.

The CECC has not said whether the Academia Sinica case and the TSMC case are among the imported cases.

Meanwhile, among the 24 newly imported cases reported Friday, one was a sports major in college who started suffering a headache, an eyesore and a nasal congestion on Tuesday after returning from Europe, according to the CECC. The athlete was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday.

The teenage athlete, who was case No. 114, went to Europe with other Taiwanese athletes in mid-February to attend competitions, according to the CECC. During their stay in Europe, the infected athlete visited Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom, the CECC said.

It said the other athletes have been placed under quarantine until March 30, and right after the infected case was confirmed, they were tested to see if they have the virus. The test results are not yet available.

In the wake of an increase in imported COVID-19 cases, Taiwan has placed all foreign countries and territories under its highest Level 3 travel warning starting Saturday.

The Level 3 warning, which previously applied to 101 countries and territories covering virtually all of Europe and Asia, has been extended to include Latin America, Africa and Oceania.

The CECC discourages all non-essential travel to locations under a Level 3 warning and requires people who have traveled in or transited through such areas to go into home quarantine for 14 days immediately upon their return.

To combat further spread of the virus, starting Thursday, Taiwan also banned all foreigners from entering, except diplomats, people with business contracts to fulfill, and others with special circumstances.