Taiwan to Downgrade Covid-19 Alert Level Next Week as Cases Fall
(Bloomberg) -- Taiwan will ease some Covid curbs from next week but will stop short of a full-blown opening up over concerns removing restrictions too soon could lead to a resurgence in cases.
Premier Su Tseng-chang has approved a decision to downgrade the government’s so-called level-3 alert from Tuesday, Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng said in a text-messaged statement Friday, without providing further details. The Central Epidemic Command Center is likely to formally announce the move and outline which restrictions will be eased later Friday.
The government will allow wedding-banquet venues, tourist sites and bowling alleys to reopen, as well as gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, according to reports in local media Friday.
Other requirements, such as mandatory mask-wearing at all times outdoors, and social distancing, will remain.
The decline in infections from a May peak shows Taiwan appears to have brought its worst Covid-19 outbreak largely back under control. But the decision to maintain certain restrictions, such as keeping bars and entertainment venues closed, shows official fears that a subsequent spike in infections could force repeated lockdowns, as has happened in many other parts of the world.
The government plans to gradually ease Covid restrictions as the local outbreak is under control, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Monday, adding that it will still tighten the rules again if the situation worsens. Border controls are more likely to be tightened than relaxed, he said.
Taiwan has been under the level 3 alert since May 19, with indoor family and social gatherings limited to five people and outdoor ones to 10. Under the curbs, which were extended several times to July 26, schools and recreational facilities including bars have been shut.
Restaurant owners will be watching closely for any indications they will be allowed to offer in-restaurant dining once again. While the government eased dining curbs earlier this month in an effort to reduce the impact on the industry, almost all local governments overruled the decision, allowing restaurants to offer takeout service only. Local officials are scheduled to announced their updated rules later Friday.
The pace of Taiwan’s vaccination drive indicates life may slowly be able to return to normal. The number of people who have had at least one jab has increased significantly since authorities imposed the soft lockdown in May.
More than 60% of people aged 65 years or older have been inoculated, according to the CECC. The vaccine coverage ratio for the population as a whole is likely to meet the government’s interim goal of 25% before the end of the month, according to a statement from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, citing President Tsai Ing-wen.
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