Japanese engineer diagnosed with COVID-19 after working in Taiwan

Travelers at Narita International Airport(Courtesy of Kyodo News)

TAIPEI (CNA) — A Japanese engineer who had worked in northern Taiwan for just over a month has tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Japan on Aug. 1, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who also heads the CECC, confirmed at a news briefing that the man in his 30s, who came to northern Taiwan for work on June 15 and was in home quarantine through June 29, tested positive during mandatory COVID-19 screening of arrivals to Japan.

He has been asymptomatic while in Taiwan and after returning back to Japan, Chen said.

The CECC received notification of the positive test from Japan’s health authorities through the National IHR Focal Point, a communication channel set up under the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) International Health Regulations, and began contact tracing.

It has since identified 80 people who may have come into contact with him, including his colleagues, hotel employees and passengers siting in the two rows in front and behind him on the flight to Japan.

Except for eight people who had already left Taiwan, 71 have received PCR tests, and the 39 for whom tests have come back have all tested negative, the CECC said.

They were also tested for antibodies to see if they were infected with COVID-19, and so far 33 had shown negative results.

Taiwan has seen three foreign nationals diagnosed with COVID-19 upon arrival to their home countries in June and July after stays in Taiwan, prompting concerns about possible local infections.

But Chen said that number was relatively insignificant given that 39,673 people who left Taiwan during that time entered countries that require COVID-19 tests upon arrival — namely China, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia.

No new cases were reported on Wednesday, and to date, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Taiwan was 476, with 384 classified as imported, according to the CECC.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected 18,516,907 people in 187 countries and regions, including 4,859,337 in the United States, 2,801,921 in Brazil, 1,855,745 in India, with a total of 700,477 fatalities, according to CECC statistics as of Wednesday.