Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the new cases were located mostly in the Greater Taipei area, with 106 reported in New Taipei and 102 in Taipei. They brought to 1,024 the number of locally transmitted cases in the past eight days.
Chen said two infected persons, a 60-year-old woman and an 86-year-old man, died on Monday because of complications from the disease.
Do you have questions about the biggest topics and trends from around the world? Get the answers with SCMP Knowledge, our new platform of curated content with explainers, FAQs, analyses and infographics brought to you by our award-winning team.
“The [woman] was found collapsing at home on Monday and died after she was hospitalised,” Chen said. He said the man was being treated for a chronic disease when he contracted the virus from an infected patient at the same hospital. His condition worsened and he died on the same day.
They were the first two deaths in the recent surge of local cases, bringing the total number of people killed by the virus to 14. The last previous fatality was reported on April 24, when a 70-year-old Philippines-based Taiwanese businessman died during quarantine at a hotel in Taipei.
Taiwan also recorded five imported cases on Tuesday.
The number of local cases on Tuesday was lower than Monday’s 333, which Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je – a doctor – said could be a sign of a gradual easing in the new outbreak’s rate.
“Since we set up the Covid-19 testing stations on May 14, the positive ratio has dropped from 11 per cent to 4.7 per cent on Tuesday, meaning the outbreak could be controlled if the public sharply reduce their activities,” he said.
Taiwan recorded 29 new local cases on May 14, followed by 180 the following day and further daily rises of 206 and 333, before dropping to 240 on Tuesday. A majority of local residents responded to the spikes in infections by staying at home.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen asked the public to strictly follow anti-pandemic rules to prevent the outbreak from worsening. All schools in Taiwan will be closed until May 28.
“I urge all people to do their best in preventing the pandemic and leave the most-needed medical resources for the seriously infected patients,” she said after visiting the island’s Central Epidemic Control Centre, where she was briefed on the progress of locally developed vaccines.
Tsai said two experimental vaccines developed by Taiwanese companies – Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corporation and United Biomedical – were at the end of phase 2 trials, and hopefully would be available for locals in July after getting emergency use authorisation next month.
She also apologised for yet another round of power outages on Monday night which affected 660,000 households, saying it should never have happened twice in a week. Tsai said she would ask the Cabinet to find ways to address the power shortage issue.
As of Tuesday, Taiwan had recorded a total of 2,260 infections, including 1,121 local and 1,086 imported cases, as well as 14 deaths.
Taipei’s de facto envoy to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, said she was in talks to secure some of US President Joe Biden’s planned release of 80 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, which she hoped could arrive in Taiwan next month.
Biden has promised to send 20 million doses of vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration – made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – to countries in need, in addition to 60 million doses made by AstraZeneca once its jab is approved by the regulatory body.
“We want to lead the world with our values, with this demonstration of our innovation and ingenuity, and the fundamental decency of the American people,” Biden said on Monday.
Hsiao told Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency that she was “in active talks” with the US for a share of the jabs. She said that although buying the vaccines was the job of the island’s health ministry, she was helping with negotiations in an effort to speed up the process.
Taiwan does not maintain official relations with the US, which switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei in 1979. But the two sides have substantive ties that have deepened as Washington has increasingly seen Beijing as a threat.
According to Hsiao, the vaccine doses already ordered by Taiwan – from AstraZeneca, which have begun arriving, and Moderna, which are expected to arrive next month – came through US channels.
The island has signed contracts to buy 5.05 million doses of the US-made Moderna vaccine and 10 million doses of AstraZeneca, as well as 4.76 million doses of unspecified brands through the Covax Facility, which has allocated 1.02 million AstraZeneca shots to Taiwan.
About 300,000 shots have so far arrived from AstraZeneca. As of Monday, close to 200,000 of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people had taken their first doses, leaving not enough for their second doses.
Hsiao said that before the recent surge in cases, local demand for the vaccines was low, and she had been focusing on helping to procure doses for Taiwan’s diplomatic allies.
But because of the recent spike and a rise in demand for the shots, she was in contact with US vaccine makers to try to ensure that Taiwan’s existing orders were delivered on time.
Taiwan’s new cases, mostly in Taipei and neighbouring New Taipei, have prompted health authorities to raise their alert level for the first time to tier three in the four-tier system. They have restricted indoor gatherings to five people and outdoor gatherings to 10 in Taipei and New Taipei until May 28, but stopped short of a lockdown.
Bars, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms, libraries and other entertainment venues and recreational facilities have been closed since Friday.
More from South China Morning Post:
This article Taiwan reports 240 new Covid-19 cases, in talks with US for share of donated vaccine doses first appeared on South China Morning Post