CECC Focuses On Foreign Pilots As Source Of COVID-19 Cases At Airport Hotels

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Taipei, April 30 (CNA) The search for the source of COVID-19 infections found at the Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport hotel is now focused on pilots from foreign carriers who have stayed there, the health minister said and Chen Shih-chung Welfare (陳 時 中) Friday.

Four employees at the hotel, which is partly used by China Airlines and other Taiwan-based carriers for their crew members, were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 on Friday, but how they were infected remains. uncertain.

During a Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) press briefing, the health minister said the current theory is that hotel workers contracted the virus left by a pilot or pilots of foreign carriers during cleaning their rooms after their departure.

As a result, Chen announced that the airport hotel, which has two buildings – one for regular customers and one for flight crew members – will not accept crew members. of foreign carriers after its reopening.

He said two hotels in Taoyuan have been designated as quarantine hotels for crew members of foreign airlines.

Under current regulations, all Taiwanese carrier flight crews must be quarantined for three days after returning from their mission and are tested for COVID-19 upon completion of the quarantine.

Most other people arriving in Taiwan only need to be quarantined for 14 days.

Crew members of foreign carriers must remain in the quarantine hotel during their layover, but no testing is required at any time, opening a potential COVID-19 prevention loophole.

When asked if the CECC will now start testing crew members of foreign carriers, Chen said the CECC was unable to make testing mandatory for foreign crew members, without explaining. Why.

The CECC urged people who visited or stayed at the Novotel airport hotel between April 15 and April 28 to monitor their health for 14 days after their last stay, wear a surgical mask and take a COVID test. 19 if they develop symptoms, such as fever, diarrhea or breathing problems.

Following the first confirmed case of a hotel worker on Thursday, health authorities transferred around 400 hotel staff and guests to government quarantine centers, where they were tested for COVID-19 .

Among them, three other hotel employees tested positive for coronavirus on Friday. The CECC said it will conduct contact tracing among flight crew members who have stayed there and may be asked to return to quarantine.

In addition, the CECC has called on local governments to complete an inspection of all quarantine hotels by May 17, following the infections found at the airport hotel.

CECC official Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) said genome sequencing of viruses found in the new cases will help determine whether infections among airport hotel workers are related to those seen at several China Airlines pilots and their family members.

Genome sequencing results from seven cases returned and they showed six pilots and one family member were all infected with a variant of the virus first found in the UK which has since spread around the world, Lo said.

The Novotel Taipei Taoyuan International Airport is located in the China Airlines complex which includes the carrier’s headquarters and training facilities.

As of April 20, 10 of the carrier’s pilots have tested positive for COVID-19, including one in Australia, and the CECC has yet to determine the sources of their infections.

Five family members of China Airlines pilots have also been confirmed as COVID-19 patients, and they have been classified as domestic cases, the first in more than 70 days. To date, Taiwan has reported 1,128 cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began in early 2020, including three domestic cases and four imported cases confirmed on Friday. Of the total, 12 have died, while 63 are isolated for treatment in hospital.

(By Chen Chieh-ling, Yu Hsiao-han and Kay Liu)

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