The Central Epidemic Command Center yesterday said it would test up to 400 more employees at the hospital where the nation’s two latest domestic cases of COVID-19 worked, although the center did not expect the results to reveal new cases.
The two local infections — case No. 838, a physician in his 30s who works at a hospital in northern Taiwan, and case No. 839, a nurse at the same hospital who is also the physician’s girlfriend — were confirmed by the CECC on Tuesday.
The doctor contracted the disease after treating a COVID-19 patient, while the nurse, who did not treat a confirmed COVID-19 case, is not believed to have contracted the infection at work, the center said.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
Among the 468 people who were tested for potential exposure to the pair at the hospital — including 41 doctors, 185 nurses, 40 administrative staff members, and 202 patients and their relatives — all have tested negative, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a news conference in Taipei.
Seventy-seven of them had shown symptoms or were in “very close” contact with the doctor and nurse, so they were tested twice, he said, adding that those results also returned negative.
Fifty-four contacts of the pair outside the context of the hospital were tested for COVID-19 and had returned negative results, he said.
To meet public expectations and put the hospital employees at ease, the center would test an additional 300 to 400 people who were in the same hospital division and might have had contact with the pair for “very short” periods of time, said Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳), convener of the center’s expert advisory panel.
They are not a cause of concern for the center, he said, adding that the tests are likely to reveal “no problems.”
The health of all of the hospital workers would be closely monitored and more tests performed if shown to be necessary, he added.
The 300 to 400 additional tests — all medical or administrative personnel — would be performed today and tomorrow, Chen said.
While there had been plans to test everyone at the hospital, experts who met yesterday to review the proposal believed that it was unnecessary as the closest contacts of the doctor and nurse had all tested negative, he said.
Earlier yesterday in a radio interview with media personality Clara Chou (周玉蔻), Chen said he believes that the recent spread of COVID-19 in China’s Hebei Province is “very serious.”
Asked about plans to handle an expected surge in Taiwanese returning from abroad for the Lunar New Year holiday, Chen said that the center would from today impose higher quarantine standards, and that pressure on the nation’s quarantine capacity is likely to increase.
Additional reporting by CNA
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