Taiwan braces for Covid surge after recording 700 cases in 3 days

Taipei, May 17 (EFE).- Taiwan, which has been relatively successful in controlling Covid-19 so far, on Monday banned the entry of foreigners without a residence permit and shut down schools as part of emergency measures to check the spread of an outbreak which has led to over 700 infections being reported in the last three days

On Monday, the Taiwanese Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 335 new corronavirus cases, including 333 locally transmitted infections, after 207 cases were found on Sunday and 185 on Saturday.

The detection of 727 cases in such a short period has rung alarm bells on the island, which had managed to keep Covid in check last year without having to resort to massive lockdowns.

Apart from banning the entry of foreigners for a month, authorities have also banned passengers’ transit until Jun.18.

The measure could be aimed at checking infections such as those recently detected among airline crews and people arriving from abroad, according to local media.

Meanwhile local authorities on Monday also announced a two-week closure of kindergartens as well as primary and secondary schools in Taipei and the adjacent New Taipei area, which have been hit the hardest by the outbreak.

On Saturday, the CDC had raised the Covid alert for the two areas to level 3, which results in the closure of gyms, bars, entertainment venues as well as religious, cultural and sports activities.

The center also recommended avoiding ‘unnecessary” activities, gatherings and movement, and urged citizens to always wear masks.

It has asked for the suspension of social or family gatherings of more than 5 people and disinfecting means of transport. Open-air meetings have to be limited to 10 people.

If the daily caseload remains above 100 for 14 days, the alert level would be raised further, resulting in a lockdown, a possibility which led to Taipei residents queuing up at supermarkets on Monday.

So far, most establishments and offices are allowing people to enter after they present a QR code certifying their good state of health, although some have asked employees to work from home.

Taiwan’s health minster, Chen Shih-chung, on Monday urged residents to follow protocols and reduce activities, a day after he announced plans to establish special centers for RT-PCR testing.

The CDC said on Monday that most of the new infections had been accompanied by weak symptoms, and asymptomatic and mild patients should isolate themselves at home to avoid filling up hospitals.

Experts have warned that next two weeks would be key for containing the outbreak, adding that people’s reluctance to report the places they had visited had led to a surge, as this made contact-tracing difficult.

Taiwan has suspended its voluntary vaccination drive to reserve doses for high-priority groups, as the island awaits delivery of vaccine shipments and the approval of an indigenous candidate.

So far, Taiwan has registered 2,017 Covid since the beginning of the pandemic, including 12 deaths. EFE


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