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Covid-19 testing stepped up in Kaohsiung to stem growing infection cluster

Taiwan's main container port, Kaohsiung, is implementing intensive testing of port workers after a growing Covid-19 cluster, which was traced to a man who conducted repair work on two ships in the port.

The man, who became infected with the highly contagious Omicron strain, subsequently transmitted the disease to his young son and other ship repair colleagues.

For the past week, Taiwan has been reporting daily new infections in the double-digits, of which many are in Kaohsiung. Yesterday saw 63 new infections, mainly caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant. Since the pandemic began, Taiwan had confirmed over 18,500 infections and was held up as an example for keeping the disease under control, but is now seeing a resurgence with the Omicron strain.

In response, the Ministry of Transport and Communications announced stricter measures relating to the inspection of ships calling at Kaohsiung. Kaohsiung City Health Bureau has also begun investigating the origins of the cluster, which is Taiwan’s second-biggest after another cluster that began in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.

Ship inspectors must be quickly screened for any infection traces as soon as they have disembarked from the vessels, while three more screening stations have been installed in the port.

In the past week, more than 20,000 people have been screened, including anyone else entering the port. The testing requirement also applies to the crew members on ships plying domestic waters.

Entry will be denied to anyone who has not taken a polymerase chain reaction test within the stipulated time frame, said Deputy Minister for Transport and Communications, Chih Wen-Jung.

The screenings have picked up infections among seafarers, and anyone in close contact with these crew members will have to be quarantined.

Martina Li
Asia Correspondent

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