Taiwan confirms first case of S.African COVID-19 variant

TAIPEI, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Taiwan health authorities said on Wednesday they had confirmed the first case of the highly transmissible South African variant of COVID-19, in an eSwatini national being treated in hospital.

The infection with the variant had been confirmed on Tuesday by laboratory test, the Central Epidemic Command Centre said.

The man in his 30s had arrived in Taiwan to work on Dec. 24 and began developing symptoms while in quarantine and was initially confirmed to have COVID-19 on Jan. 3, according to details previously released by the government.

The small southern African country of eSwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is Taiwan’s only remaining diplomatic ally on the continent.

Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini died in a South African hospital last month after testing positive for COVID-19.

Separately, the command centre said that from Thursday anyone arriving from South Africa or eSwatini, or who had been there within the previous 14 days, would have to quarantine at a centralised facility, which already applies to travellers coming from Britain.

South Africa reported a new peak of more than 21,000 daily infections last week, taking total COVID-19 cases to more than 1.2 million, the most on the African continent. Coronavirus deaths now exceed 33,000.

Taiwan has reported 843 COVID-19 cases including seven deaths. Almost all the cases have been imported and about 100 people are being treated in hospital. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard Editing by Robert Birsel)