Taiwan’s Virus Cases Hold Near Peak as People Told to Stay Home

Taiwan’s new coronavirus cases exceeded 300 for a sixth day as authorities pleaded for people to stay at home to help contain an outbreak.

There were 321 new local cases Saturday, while total infections for recent days were revised higher by 400, the Centers for Disease Control said in a statement. There were two imported cases and two more deaths, bringing the number of people who have died to 17.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said Saturday that the situation in Taiwan is “stable” and the rate of positive cases as a percentage of tests is decelerating. There is no current need to impose a harder lockdown if Taiwanese people cooperate to fight the pandemic, he said. On Friday, he asked people to remain at home over the weekend.

The current outbreak, thought to have started at a hotel used to quarantine pilots near Taoyuan International Airport, first spread widely through the capital Taipei and surrounding areas. Health authorities have imposed a soft lockdown across Taiwan, barring large gatherings, shutting schools and closing all entertainment and recreation venues. Companies have been encouraged to allow employees to work from home.

Investors appear to be over the initial shock. After plummeting in the prior week, the benchmark Taiwan Stock Index rose 3% this week for its best performance in three months. The Taiwan dollar also ended the week as one of the region’s top performers, closing at the strongest level since May 10.

Taiwan, once one of the global success stories in containing the virus, is now racing to secure more vaccines. The island only has 725,000 doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine, enough to fully inoculate less than 2% of its 23.5 million population.

Lawmakers are considering expanding stimulus measures by an additional NT$210 billion ($7.5 billion) in an effort to shield the economy from the impact of the virus. While sectors such as retail and hospitality will take the brunt of the impact, the government is keen to ensure that Taiwan’s crucial technology industry, especially its semiconductor makers, are able to keep running amid a global shortage of semiconductors.

Officials have expressed optimism that if the outbreak can be brought under control in the next few weeks, the impact on the economy will be limited.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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