Coronavirus: Taiwan to roll out vaccines for hi-tech workers to protect chip industry

·4-min read

Some 293,000 workers at three major science parks in Taiwan will be vaccinated to cut the risk of fallout from a Covid-19 outbreak on the island’s multibillion-dollar tech industry.

The decision came as the island’s Central Epidemic Command Centre reported 219 infections and 22 deaths on Tuesday, taking Taiwan’s total since the pandemic began to 11,694 cases and 308 deaths.

The outbreak prompted the Ministry of Science and Technology to issue plans to ensure employees of the Hsinchu Science Park in northern Taiwan, the Central Taiwan Science Park in Taichung and Southern Taiwan Science Park in Tainan to be inoculated as soon as the island had enough shots, a ministry spokesman said on Tuesday.

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“Under our plans, we will set up six large-scale vaccination sites in and around the three parks so employees will have better access to take the jabs once the shots are ready,” the spokesman said.

The park administration would arrange for medical personnel to administer the vaccine and employees of the three parks could make appointments through a web portal already in place, the official said.

With a combined turnover of more than NT$3 trillion (US$108 billion) in 2020, which accounts for 15.31 per cent of Taiwan’s gross domestic product, the three parks house more than 900 tech companies, according to the ministry.

Covid-19 outbreak at Taiwan factory may worsen chip shortage

The official said the ministry must take into account the widening outbreak as the hi-tech industry – which is critical in the global supply chain – was the backbone of Taiwan’s economy.

Three electronics companies in Miaoli county in northwestern Taiwan – including King Yuan Electronics, one of the world’s largest chip-testing firms – were reported to have infection clusters involving more than 200 migrant workers and some local employees.

The outbreak prompted King Yuan to close its main plant in the county on the weekend as the command centre put all the company’s 2,000 migrant workers into 14-day quarantine, forcing the firm to turn to temporary local workers.

On Tuesday, Premier Su Tseng-chang told a legislature meeting that the government had prepared a large-scale vaccination programme and he expected 10 million vaccine doses to arrive in Taiwan by the end of August.

Asked why the island had not received the 20 million shots it ordered between September and February, Su said: “Many countries have scrambled for doses due to worsening outbreaks brought by variants of the virus, and this has created supply and delivery problems.”

Also at the meeting, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the authorities had tried to negotiate with some overseas suppliers to make vaccines on the island, but no deal had been struck.

Taiwan says China waging economic warfare against tech sector

Taiwan has signed deals to buy 10 million doses from AstraZeneca, 5 million from Moderna and more than 4.7 million doses via the Covax Facility, which is supported by the World Health Organization.

It has already received 870,000 vaccine doses – 720,000 from British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca and 150,000 from US-based Moderna. It also took delivery of 1.24 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine donated by the Japanese government on Friday.

Less than 4 per cent of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people have had jabs, according to the command centre.

Under the large-scale vaccination programme to start later this month, medical and frontline workers – including, military, hi-tech and key industry personnel – will have priority and all doses will be free.

In a tweet on Monday, President Tsai Ing-wen said: I’m proud to share that Covid-19 vaccines will be free for everyone in Taiwan. Our government has allocated more than NT$26 billion to ensure that everyone in our country is protected from this disease. Please make sure to get vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible.”

The defence ministry also urged its 200,000 military personnel to not travel home for the upcoming Dragon Boat Festival long weekend to prevent the spread of the disease.

It said it was also considering whether to postpone the annual live-fire Han Kuang drills next month.

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