367 Navy sailors test negative for COVID-19, released from quarantine

A group of 367 Navy sailors, who were on a flotilla that had a recent outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus, were released from quarantine Monday after testing negative for the virus. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) — A group of 367 Navy sailors, who were on a flotilla that had a recent outbreak of COVID-19 coronavirus, were released from quarantine Monday after testing negative for the virus.

The sailors, part of a goodwill mission that returned from the Pacific in early April, were seen leaving quarantine centers in Kaohsiung, Taoyuan and Yilan and boarding charter buses provided by the Ministry of National Defense (MND).

They were being transported to locations about 200 meters from their respective homes and would be required to observe self-health management for another 14 days, which means refraining from visiting public places, wearing a surgical face mask when going out, checking their temperature twice a day, and seeking medical treatment immediately if suspicious symptoms appear, according to the MND.

While the MND did not say exactly how many of the 713 crew members of the flotilla had been released from quarantine Monday, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Sunday the number was expected to be 367.

Two days after the three Navy vessels — the Yueh Fei guided-missile frigate, the Kang Ding frigate, and fast combat support ship the Panshi — returned on April 9 from a goodwill mission to Palau and disembarked, some of the crew members tested positive for COVID-19, which resulted in all the sailors being recalled by their respective units and put into quarantine.

At present, 346 members of the Panshi crew are still in quarantine after four of them were confirmed Sunday to have the disease.

All four were asymptomatic but have been admitted to hospital, while the others were due to be tested again on Monday, according to Chen.

So far, 35 of the Panshi crew have tested positive for COVID-19, but none of the sailors on the other two ships have been found to have contracted the disease, according to the Central Emergency Command Center.