Taiwan Death Toll Jumps as Chen Warns Case Trend Is ‘Not Great’

Taiwan’s death toll surged by almost a third as authorities reported hundreds more infections, prompting health minister Chen Shih-chung to signal the outbreak is still not under control after two weeks of social-distancing measures.

The 19 deaths reported Friday were among people aged between 40 and 90 and occurred between May 21 and May 27, bringing Taiwan’s toll to 78 since the pandemic began. The authorities found 297 new domestic infections Friday and added 258 local cases to previous tallies. “This is not good,” Chen said at his daily briefing.

“The fact that cases are not dropping shows there are still cases in the community. So we should speed up screening in hot areas,” Chen said. “But the number of cases is not surging either, showing that the Covid measures in place are effective. So there is a balance.”

Taiwan is battling its worst-ever outbreak of Covid-19, having made it through 2020 with few deaths or infections. A soft lockdown has shuttered schools, bars and most public facilities, with restaurants only allowed to serve takeout.

The virus continues to spread in part because very few people in Taiwan have had a vaccine, with the government resisting pressure to take the politically unpalatable step of working with China to obtain shots.

Officials are also trying to speed up testing and results, with the past fortnight having seen officials repeatedly top up previous infection tallies because of lengthy waits in processing tests.

Medical worker representatives have said staff are becoming overwhelmed and asking for help. Chen said there are enough hospital wards, but demand is too concentrated in certain areas, and officials are working on the issue.

Taiwan has had 7,315 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of today, including 6,136 local infections. All but seven of the reported fatalities contracted the virus in Taiwan.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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