TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan confirmed 22 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, 21 of which involved people on a military ship that sailed to Taiwan’s Pacific ally Palau in March, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).
The latest confirmed cases brought the country’s total confirmed cases to 420, the CECC said.
The CECC announced on Saturday that three people aboard the naval supply vessel that was part of the Navy’s three-ship “Fleet of Friendship” had tested positive for COVID-19.
These were the first confirmed CODIV-19 infections involving Taiwan’s military since the outbreak was first reported in Wuhan in China in late 2019.
The supply ship Panshih (磐石), together with a Cheng Kung-class guided-missile frigate, Yueh Fei (岳飛), and a Lafayette class frigate “Kang Ding” (康定), departed Taiwan in early March for a visit to Palau from March 12 to 15 and then traveled at sea for more than 20 days before returning to its home port in Zuoying in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung on April 9.
The three ships then remain docked at the port for an extra six days with all personnel staying on board to comply with CECC quarantine requirements that only passengers on ships that had not docked at a foreign port for 30 days could disembark.
It was only on April 15 that the sailors could leave the ships and return to their homes.
The CECC said Sunday that aside from the three who tested positive by Saturday, all of the more than 700 people aboard the three ships were put into quarantine and were tested for the new coronavirus late Saturday, with 21 of them testing positive.
All 24 of the confirmed COVID-19 patients (22 males and 2 females) from the fleet served on the Panshih vessel, and they are all under isolation in hospitals for treatment, according to the CECC.
The other 700-plus people on the ships have been put in six quarantine locations across the country and an isolated military camp for a required 14-day quarantine, it said.
The CECC is still trying to determine the source of the cluster infection.
On Sunday, the head of the CECC, Health Ministry Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), retracted his comment from the previous day that the virus was likely contracted in Palau, one of Taiwan’s 15 diplomatic allies worldwide.
He said instead that health authorities are still conducting an investigation to determine if the 24 cases contracted the virus locally or overseas.
Chen said, meanwhile, that the CECC would issue alerts by text message later Sunday to more than 2,000 people who had contact with the 744 people aboard the three military ships, reminding them to practice “self-health management” for 14 days and avoid visiting public spaces to prevent community transmission.
The 744 aboard the military vessels included naval officers, servicepersons, students in the naval and political warfare academics.
He also advised those who receive CECC alerts to stay at home and call the toll-free disease prevention hotline 1922 to seek medical advice if they feel unwell or develop COVID-19 symptoms.
The only other new COVID-19 case confirmed Sunday was a man in his 20s who studied in the United States for a year before coming back to Taiwan on April 17.
As of Sunday, 341 of the 420 confirmed COVID-19 cases that have been reported in Taiwan were classified as imported and 55 as indigenous infections, while the 24 cases from the Navy are still pending, the CECC said.
So far, Taiwan has reported six COVID-19 deaths and 189 recovered patients, while the others are still undergoing treatment in hospital isolation rooms, according to the CECC.
Globally, COVID-19 has infected 2,331,516 patients in 184 countries and regions worldwide, including 732,224 in the U.S., 191,726 in Spain, 175,925 in Italy, and 173,956 in France, with a total of 158,722 fatalities, according to CECC numbers.