Taiwan confirms first coronavirus death on island, cases at 20

February 17, 2020 09:15
People wearing protective masks gather at the Taoist Longde temple during a ceremony to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, in Taoyuan, northwestern Taiwan on Saturday. Photo: AFP

A taxi driver has died from the coronavirus in Taiwan, marking the first such death on the island and the fifth fatality from the epidemic outside mainland China, Reuters reports.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said during a news conference on Sunday that the deceased person was a 61-year-old man who had diabetes and hepatitis B. Taiwan has to date accumulated 20 confirmed cases.

The deceased person had not traveled abroad recently and was a taxi driver whose clients were mainly from Hong Kong, Macau and mainland China, the minister said. One of his family members was also confirmed to have the virus.

The pair constituted Taiwan’s first local transmission cases, the minister said, adding that authorities were trying to find out as soon as possible the source of contraction.

“So far, we are not able to gather his contact history, so we are actively making investigations, hoping to find out the source of the contraction,” Chen said.

The island was scheduled on Monday to start testing all patients who show symptoms associated with coronavirus and had traveled abroad recently, the health ministry said.

The coronavirus, thought to have emerged at a wildlife market in Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province, has killed 1,665 people in China with latest figures showing 68,500 cases of the illness.

Taiwan has banned entry to Chinese visitors and foreigners with a recent history of travel to China and suspended most flights to its giant neighbor. Many schools have also extended their Lunar New Year holiday to late February to curb the spread of the virus.

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