Taiwan reports its first case of mutant Covid-19 strain found in Britain
- Health minister says a child who arrived on the island from London on the weekend was confirmed with the new variant
- New bans on incoming foreign passengers will apply from Friday to help prevent further spread
The strain believed to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the one first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
“After comparing the genome of the sample taken from the patient who returned from Britain ... the Centres for Disease Control has confirmed that the patient has the British variant virus,” Chen said.
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The child, understood to be aged around 10 years, was among 127 passengers who arrived in Taipei from London on Sunday. Three of the passengers, including the boy, tested positive for Covid-19, according to Taiwanese health officials.
“This is the first case of the British variant found in Taiwan,” Chen said, adding the CDC was still assessing whether the two other passengers had the new strain.
Chen said that as a result Taiwan would bar foreign passengers not just from Britain, but also from other countries from Friday.
“Beginning January 1, no foreign visitors will be allowed in unless they are eligible,” Chen said, adding the ban also applied to foreign passengers transiting in Taiwan.
Those allowed in include spouses and children of Taiwanese citizens, people with residency in Taiwan, passengers who have to fulfil business contracts on the island as well as diplomats or envoys posted to Taiwan, according to the Central Epidemic Command Centre.
People from mainland China who have residence status in Taiwan, and spouses or children of Taiwanese people were also allowed in, the centre said.
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In addition, from January 15, passengers will not be able to board a plane to the island without proof of where they intend to quarantine. If they plan to stay at home instead of designated hotels, no one else can be at the residence during the isolation period. Fines of up to NT$1 million (US$35,500) could be imposed for breaches, the centre said.
All passengers will also have to show reports of Covid-19 tests taken at most 72 hours before boarding.
Due to a swift response and strict border controls, Taiwan has just 797 coronavirus cases, including 56 local infections and seven deaths.