Taiwan’s coronavirus case numbers still on the rise, but signs of easing

·3-min read

The coronavirus outbreak in Taiwan has shown further signs of stabilising with 75 new local infections on Monday, down from 109 cases reported on Sunday.

But, its soft lockdown measures could continue beyond the anticipated end date due to the appearance of a new “cluster” area.

It is the first time Taiwan has registered fewer than 100 daily cases since May 19, when the entire island moved into the third tier of its four-tier Covid-19 alert system.

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Twenty newly reported deaths were reported on Monday. That brought the total number of deaths to 569 and the total number of infections to 14,080, following a sudden surge of cases in late April. Of those, 1,165 were imported cases, according to Taiwan’s Centres for Disease Control.

For months the self-ruled island had an almost negligible number of cases and won global recognition for keeping the pandemic at bay.

Then came the rise in infections and the level three Covid-19 warning, which was extended earlier this month to June 28.

It is the highest alert level so far and means all schools remain closed, residents must wear masks when away from home and gatherings of more than four people indoors and nine people outside are banned.

On Monday afternoon, Chen Shih-chung, head of Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre, refused to indicate if the restriction measures would be eased after the 28th.

He urged control measures to be continued to maintain the downward trend.

“We will not predict when restrictions might be eased even though we are heading in a good direction with a stabilising trend,” Chen said.

Hopes for Taiwan’s soft lockdown to be lifted after June 28 are likely to be dented by a new cluster of infections. Forty-five cases were reported on Sunday in the Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation and an emergency response command centre has been set up in the city to tackle the problem.

Measures including rapid screenings are under way and the company’s 4,000 employees, contractors and wholesalers are expected to be vaccinated within three days of testing negative for the virus.

Previously there have been clusters of infections including in hi-tech firms in northern Taiwan’s Miaoli county.

The island is also set to expand its vaccination programme to include those aged 65 and over and pregnant women, after a delivery of 2.5 million Moderna doses from the US.

The donation has brought some relief as only 6.4 per cent of Taiwan’s 23 million people have been vaccinated so far.

Taiwan is prioritising inoculations for seven groups, including medical and public health staff, frontline workers who ensure the smooth running of society, kidney dialysis patients and those above the age of 75.

It has already received more than 1.2 million doses from Japan and ordered millions more doses from drug makers including AstraZeneca and Moderna and from the Covax Facility, a distribution platform backed by the World Health Organization.

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