Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (left) holds a chart showing the family cluster of six recent COVID-19 cases./Photo courtesy of CNA
Taipei, Feb. 26 (CNA) An Indonesian woman who was working in the country illegally has been confirmed as Taiwan's 32nd COVID-19 coronavirus case, after being hired to care for an elderly man in the hospital who was later diagnosed with the virus, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Wednesday.
At a press conference, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the woman, who is in her 30s, was confirmed Wednesday as the sixth case associated with a family cluster of the virus also responsible for cases 27-31.
According to Chen, the woman worked from Feb. 11-16 as a hospital caregiver for an octogenarian northern Taiwan man, who was diagnosed Sunday as Taiwan's 27th COVID-19 case.
Because the woman was working illegally, authorities were initially unable to locate her for testing on Monday, the CECC said.
After a four-hour search, police found the woman caring for a patient at another hospital, the CECC said.
The woman was tested for the virus and placed under medical quarantine on Monday night, the CECC said, adding that at the time her symptoms were limited to a mild sore throat.
Addressing concerns that the virus may have been unknowingly spread in a hospital environment, the CECC said all those identified as having come into contact with the woman at the hospitals where she worked have tested negative.
However, authorities are still investigating who the woman came into contact with outside of work, and have not ruled out announcing her movements as a precautionary measure, the CECC said.
While Taiwan's government has refrained from announcing information on the movements of citizens with COVID-19, it did release the locations visited by Diamond Princess cruise ship passengers during a Jan. 31 stopover in Taiwan, after the vessel was subsequently quarantined for an outbreak of the virus on board.
Revealing the movements of an individual COVID-19 patient would nevertheless be controversial from a privacy standpoint, as it would likely include information by which the person in question could be identified.
Regarding the broader response to this cluster of the virus, the CECC said it has identified 744 people who came into contact with the 27th case and members of his family.
As of Wednesday, 153 have been tested, of whom five have tested positive (cases 28-32), 141 tested negative and seven are still awaiting results, the CECC said.
According to the timeline provided by the CECC, the octogenarian man and his eldest son were confirmed as Taiwan's 27th and 28th COVID-19 cases on Sunday. On Monday, his younger son and wife were diagnosed as the 29th and 30th respective cases.
These were followed by the man's 11-year-old grandson on Tuesday and his temporary caregiver on Wednesday -- the 31st and 32nd cases.
While the 27th case is one of only two to date in which the source of infection has not been identified, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) deputy director Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said Tuesday that the man's younger son is being investigated as a possible source.
In addition to previous travel to locations including Wuhan in China, and, most recently, a trip to Guangzhou last December, the son met with several friends over the Lunar New Year holiday in late January who had recently traveled to the country, Chuang said.
Chuang said the younger son's friends are currently being tested for the virus, but added that even if the results are negative, the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in any of the friends' blood could be used to identify the likely source of infection.
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