Taiwan’s first local Covid-19 case since April linked to EVA Air pilot

Taiwan's case count stood at 771 on Tuesday.
Taiwan's case count stood at 771 on Tuesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI - Taiwan recorded a locally-transmitted Covid-19 case on Tuesday (Dec 22), the first one in 253 days or since April 12, the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) said. 

Four cases were recorded on Tuesday, three of them imported and involving people returning from the Philippines. Taiwan's case count stood at 771 on Tuesday.

The domestic case is a Taiwanese woman in her 30s. She was in close contact with Case 765, a New Zealand pilot who tested positive on Dec 20.

At a press conference on Tuesday, the CECC said that between Dec 8 and 11, the pilot visited several shopping centres in Taipei’s Tianmu district as well as a Costco Wholesale store in Taoyuan, which is not far from the main international airport.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, who was also at the press conference,  asked people who had visited the same places on the same dates to monitor their health and to get tested if they begin to experience Covid-19 symptoms.

Law enforcement and health authorities discovered that the pilot, who works for Taiwan’s EVA Airways, was not truthful in filling out a health report, concealing the fact that he frequently met friends while he was in the most infectious period. 

The Taoyuan Department of Public Health will fine him NT$300,000 (S$14,200) for violating the Communicable Disease Control Act.

EVA Air said on Tuesday that its management will meet to discuss the pilot’s misconduct, which included not wearing a mask when he was flying and not filing a truthful health report. If found guilty, he can be dismissed.

The pilot’s refusal to don a mask resulted in two other pilots being infected with Covid-19.

His shopping trip also put some 167 people in the CECC’s contact tracing system, all of whom are now being tested for the coronavirus. Thirteen are on home quarantine, while the others are monitoring themselves for symptoms. 

The case puts a damper on the upcoming holiday celebrations.

President Tsai Ing-wen called for the Cabinet and the CECC to discuss new precautions for New Year’s Eve celebrations, while Taipei Deputy Mayor Huang Shan-shan on Tuesday said the city’s New Year countdown – which draws hundreds of thousands each year – will be held as usual, although everyone taking part will have to wear masks.

All outdoor gatherings scheduled around New Taipei City’s extravagant Christmas lights display will be put on hold.