Taiwan Tightens Virus Curbs After Surge in Local Cases

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Taiwan imposed restrictions on gatherings and ordered entertainment businesses to shutter operations as it raised the alert level in its capital to battle a surge in local Covid-19 infections.

Authorities encouraged people to stay at home this weekend as a record 180 new local cases were reported on Saturday. Indoor family and social gatherings in Taipei will be limited to five people, while outdoor ones will be restricted to 10, they said.

The alert level for Taipei and New Taipei city will be raised until May 28, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said in a briefing on Saturday. Schools and offices will remain open, as will department stores and restaurants.

Chen said the restrictions aren’t a lockdown but meant to curb the movement of people. The threshold of a lockdown is when there is an average of 100 or more new local cases added daily for 14 days, he said. Other prerequisites include that the source of infections are unclear for at least half of the new cases, according to a government statement.

The increase in infections threatens to shatter Taiwan’s status as one of the world’s biggest success stories in containing the pandemic. Before the current surge, Taiwan was one of just a few places in the world that had all but eliminated the virus, including Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and China. Taiwan has 1,475 confirmed cases and 12 deaths as of Saturday.

That changed in the past week, with the addition of about 250 local cases. Health authorities have struggled to contain a slowly growing outbreak centered around a hotel used to quarantine airline pilots.

The Management Committee of National Financial Stabilization Fund will closely monitor the stock market on Monday as well as local pandemic developments, according to the committee’s executive secretary and Deputy Finance Minister Juan Ching-hwa. The committee won’t rule out holding an extraordinary meeting to discuss stock market support measures if needed, he said by phone on Saturday.

The elevated alert level may affect some consumption industries, such as tourism and dining, in the short-term, Juan said, adding that it won’t affect sectors such as imports, exports, or investments and production. He urged investors to stay clam and rational as fundamentals in Taiwan markets remain strong.

After an initial outbreak of cases very early in the pandemic, Taiwan went for more than eight months without a single domestic infection between April and December.

Among the 180 new local cases reported Saturday, 89 cases were in Taipei City while 75 cases were in New Taipei City. Six cases were in central Taiwan’s Changhua County, authorities said. A record 32,351 people received vaccinations on Friday.

New restrictions announced on Saturday include shutting down entertainments venues around the island and stopping religious activities. In Taipei, people are asked to wear face masks at all times and avoid unnecessary movement and gatherings.

Premier Su Tseng-chang said at the briefing that the government has sufficient medical goods and resources including 800 million face masks, urging the public to follow guidance and stay calm.

“It’s not a must to handle this with a lockdown,” Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je said at a separate briefing on Saturday. Taiwanese people are complying with guidelines such as mask-wearing and civic-mindedness “can help us overcome this challenge,” he said.

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