Taiwan recorded its first local cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.5 of SARS-CoV-2, two family members of imported cases who arrived from the US, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division, said that the index case — reported on Monday — tested positive with the COVID-19 subvariant after arriving from the US.
The woman returned to Taiwan with her two children, both aged under 10, on June 19, and they underwent a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test upon arrival, Lo said, adding that two family members — a brother and the mother of the woman — drove a private vehicle to pick them up and travel to Taichung.
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The arriving woman had a fever, coughing and ear pain when she landed, and the PCR test at the airport came back positive the next day, while her two children tested positive on June 23 after they developed a fever, Lo said.
The woman’s brother developed a fever, coughing and a sore throat on June 24 and tested positive for COVID-19, while his mother tested positive on Thursday last week, despite not reporting any symptoms, Lo said.
Genome sequencing of samples from the arriving woman showed that she was infected with BA.5, he said.
The two family members are the first local cases of BA.5 in Taiwan, he said.
The Taichung City Health Bureau’s contact tracing efforts showed that the cases did not leave their home much while they were contagious and the only close contact tested negative, so the cluster does not seem to have spread further to the local community, he said.
The two local cases most likely contracted the disease when they picked up the three imported cases at the airport, Lo said, adding that they told health authorities they all wore masks throughout the ride to their quarantine hotel in Taichung, but as the vehicle’s windows were closed, the virus could still be transmitted given the small, enclosed space.
About 25 percent of inbound travelers are picked up by friends or family, so people should get at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and preferably a booster, and take preventive measures such as using disease prevention taxis, he said.
People should wear masks and gloves; disinfect the hands, the bottom of the shoes and luggage of arriving people before they get in a vehicle; avoid eating or drinking in the vehicle; and maintain good ventilation by keeping the windows open slightly, he said.
Everyone in the vehicle should wear a mask throughout the ride, and avoid talking and touching others, while the driver should disinfect the vehicle after the trip, especially the door handles, seats and belt buckles, Lo said.
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