COVID-19 cluster erupts among airline pilots and airport hotel workers in China



by Brian Hioe

PPhoto credit: KCS / WikiCommons / CC

COVID-19 CLUSTER related to a quarantine hotel at the Novotel Taoyuan International Airport hotel and among the pilots of China Airlines led to the cancellation of some public events and the tracing of contacts of those infected. This marks the end of two and a half months in which Taiwan has seen no cases of domestic transmission of COVID-19.

Taiwan has seen no cases of national transmission of COVID-19 after the end of a cluster of cases linked to Taoyuan General Hospital at the end of January. The Taoyuan General Hospital cluster, which was then Taiwan’s largest COVID-19 cluster during the pandemic, has seen more than twenty people infected with COVID-19 and several thousand quarantined individuals who were either visitors to the hospital or workers on site.

The Novotel Taoyuan International Airport hotel. Photo credit: Masayuki (Yuki) Kawagishi / Flickr / CC

The current cluster is comparable in size to the Taoyuan General Hospital cluster, with 26 people having been infected with COVID-19, and appears to have similar origins. The Taoyuan General Hospital cluster was born out of the fact that the doctors and nurses involved in the treatment of COVID-19 patients were themselves infected with the coronavirus. Likewise, the cluster implies that workers cleaning the quarantine hotel at Taoyuan International Airport are infected, presumably when cleaning the rooms of people who are COVID-19 positive and undergo their mandatory quarantine period after entering. in Taiwan. Two housekeepers, a housekeeping manager, a contractor working on plumbing and electricity, and a caterer who worked at the hotel were among those infected, with some of their family members also infected.

Likewise, as part of this cluster, China Airlines pilots appear to have been infected with COVID-19 and then spread it to their colleagues, family members and possibly workers at the Novotel hotel. Ten China Airlines pilots were infected, along with eight of their relatives. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) which coordinates Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 is currently investigating the origin of the cases. It is questioned whether China Airlines pilots caught COVID-19 domestically or abroad, as well as whether they could have caught COVID-19 from pilots of other carriers. China Airlines had to cancel some flights due to the cluster.

This is not the first case of domestic transmission of COVID-19 from pilots, although a previous case that happened last December only happened because the pilot in question broke quarantine. It is possible that the CECC will order stricter quarantine measures for pilots due to the current cluster, with a testing program that would have shortened quarantine periods for pilots to seven days that was originally scheduled to begin this month, and quarantine dispensed for vaccinated flight crews. It has to be seen how this affects plans to halve quarantine periods for all people arriving in Taiwan fully vaccinated.

Otherwise, the CECC has said it will quarantine flight crew members of foreign airlines at a hotel in the future. China Airlines pilots and crew, around 700, have been tested for COVID-19, while those infected have been given vaccines. Several hundred have been quarantined in Taipei, following contact with the cluster.

As such, the CECC made public the travel information of individuals belonging to the cluster, while some visitors to the Novotel hotel were ordered to isolate themselves or work remotely. Some public events have been canceled, with trips scheduled before Mother’s Day and higher-than-usual trips taking place over Labor Day last weekend.

Since Taoyuan is where Taiwan’s main international airport is located, it should come as no surprise that the most recent clusters and the Taoyuan General Hospital cluster erupted there. It remains to be seen whether the current cluster will result in calls for the commune’s containment, however, like the KMT politicians started doing the last time to attack the DPP. City and town government leaders have generally said quarantines will only be considered if there are more than 1,000 cases. Taiwan has not demanded a lockdown to date, as the COVID-19 situation remained stable last year.

Tweet from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the donation of medical equipment to India

Meanwhile, as COVID-19 cases continue to spiral out of control in India, CECC has announced an entry ban for foreign nationals from India. The Tsai administration has sent 150 oxygen concentrators and 1,000 oxygen cylinders to India to alleviate the current emergency oxygen shortage in the country, describing this as a first aid expedition. It remains to be seen what other help could come from the Tsai administration, if so. Tsaï administration can arrange charter flights for Taiwanese nationals in India if required.

The vaccine rollout for Taiwan has been surprisingly slow, with Taiwan having received 199,200 doses of AstraZeneca out of a total of 1.05 million doses allocated to Taiwan under the COVAX international vaccine distribution program. Medical workers and other vulnerable groups have been prioritized as eligible groups to receive the vaccine, but the Tsai administration has also so far released 20,000 self-paid doses for members of the general public who need them in due to travel plans or other circumstances.

The post was likely due to lack of interest from members of eligible groups eligible to receive the vaccine, with the government seeking to use up vaccine doses as quickly as possible as vaccine doses will expire by the end of May. . It is not known whether this is due to mistrust of the AstraZeneca vaccine, given fears that it may cause blood clots, or due to lack of interest in vaccines as the general public currently does not feel the need. vaccine, with the COVID-19 situation generally under control in Taiwan. Although the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive in Taiwan this month, along with other doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, otherwise members of the general public could wait for the roll-out of domestically produced vaccines that are more readily available and currently being tested.



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