CECC issues alert about movements of 24 infected military personnel

TAIPEI (CNA) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has issued an alert regarding the movements of 24 military personnel who tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus disease after they returned recently from a goodwill mission on three Navy vessels.

The CECC said Monday that it sent the alert to some 200,000 people whose cellphone data showed they had been in the same location as the infected military personnel for 15 minutes or more during the period April 15-18.

The text message warns the recipients to pay close attention to their health and conduct self-health management, which means minimizing the time they spend in public, wearing a surgical face mask whenever they leave home, and practicing proper hygiene.

The 24 military personnel, who were confirmed on the weekend to be infected with COVID-19, returned to Taiwan on April 9 after a goodwill mission in early March to Palau, one of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in the Pacific.

The three vessels on the “Fleet of Friendship” mission, carrying 744 military personnel, were docked in Palau March 12-15 then took 20 days to return to Zuoying Port in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan.

Based on CECC guidelines, all personnel were required to remain in quarantine aboard the ships, but only for six days as they had not spent more than 30 days in a foreign port.

When the 744 people, including naval officers, service persons, and students from naval and political warfare academies, were allowed to disembark on April 15, they dispersed to nine municipalities across Taiwan.

On the weekend, the CECC said all but one of the 25 new confirmed coronavirus cases over the two-day period were personnel from the Panshih, a supply vessel in the “Fleet of Friendship.”

All 744 people who returned from the mission have since been quarantined and tested, but during the four days they had been off the ships, they had spread out across nine municipalities, the CECC said.

It said eight of the 24 infected personnel are Kaohsiung residents, who went to popular tourist sites such as Hanshin Arena Shopping Plaza, Ruifeng Night Market, E-Da Outlet Mall, and Costco’s Dahsun store, as well as to Siaogang Post Office, after they disembarked.

Another infected person, who is from Tainan, visited Shin Kong Mitsukoshi Department Store in the city on April 16, and bought drinks at a FamilyMart convenience store on Gongyuan Road on April 18 before taking a bus to the quarantine site, the CECC said.

Two others, who are from Taoyuan, went to several venues like an Eslite bookstore and Carrefour outlet in Bade District, the CECC said.

According to authorities in the nine municipalities, all the sites known to have been visited by the infected personnel from the ship have been disinfected.

Meanwhile, Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. said it has also disinfected its trains and stations because some of the people who disembarked from the three ships had taken the high speed trains from Kaohsiung to various destinations on the northbound line.