Taiwan extends restrictions till June as new infections up
Taiwan on Tuesday extended virus-related restrictions until the middle of June as it reported 281 new local COVID-19 infections, 261 backlogged local cases, and six deaths, according to local health authorities.
It is the 11th consecutive day that the island's daily number of new local infections has exceeded 100. The total number of confirmed cases on the island since the epidemic began has risen to 5,456, including 35 deaths.
Given the severity of local transmissions, Taiwan will extend its level 3 alert for COVID-19 to June 14, said its health department chief Chen Shih-chung.
The level 3 alert, one rung below its highest alert level, was imposed across the island last week and was originally going to end on May 28.
Under the level 3 alert, people must wear masks at all times when they leave their homes and practice social distancing, and all schools and entertainment venues are closed.
Indoor gatherings of more than five people are not allowed, and outdoor gatherings are limited to ten people.
Chen said that while infection numbers had continued to fall since last Monday, positive rates remained high.
While current measures were effective, Chen said he was concerned about "hidden spreaders" in the community, which the authorities were not able to detect due to a time lag in getting test results.
"There has been no sudden deterioration," he said.
His department has been criticized for a logjam with recording positive COVID-19 tests due to reporting delays following the surge in cases.
"The worry is that ... we are not able to control the hidden cases during this time period, which could lead to a worsening pandemic," Chen said.
Authorities are also scrambling to track the whereabouts of 300 people who were tested positive for COVID-19 in Taipei and neighboring New Taipei City, Chen said, urging local governments to work with the police to find those patients.
Having spent months keeping the virus at bay with life relatively normal, Taiwan is dealing with a spike in local infections, exacerbated by a low vaccination rate of only about 1 percent of its population.
Chen said 2 million vaccine doses would arrive by the end of June and 10 million by the end of August.
Taiwan has ordered more than 20 million doses from AstraZeneca and Moderna and is also developing its own vaccines. A Chinese mainland spokesperson on Monday said that the mainland is willing to take swift measures to make vaccines accessible to Taiwan as soon as possible.
The mainland is also willing to actively consider sending epidemic prevention and control experts to Taiwan to share the experience in fighting COVID-19 with Taiwan medical personnel if necessary, spokesperson Zhu Fenglian added.
Meanwhile, the World Health Assembly on Monday refused to include a proposal on Taiwan's participation in its agenda. Zhu said that the decision has once again proven that seeking "Taiwan independence" is a dead end and hyping up Taiwan-related issues at the WHA only finds dwindling support.