Taiwan imposes strict social restrictions to stem its worst Covid outbreak
Taiwan, which has been among the most effective in the world at containing Covid-19, introduced two weeks of strict social distancing measures by reporting more than 200 new cases in its first significant community outbreak of the virus.
The move came as a shock to the country which has recorded some of the lowest per capita case counts, with just 1,682 cases and 12 deaths since the start of the pandemic. His successful containment of the virus has given its residents largely normal lives amid the widespread disruption of the coronavirus elsewhere.
But Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, was forced to take to social media to urge people to stop panic-buying as locals buy basic items such as instant noodles and toilet paper from the shops. information on restrictions.
An outbreak this month climbed to 206 new locally transmitted cases on Sunday, the health ministry said, adding 186 of them were in the capital Taipei and its outskirts.
When Taiwan reported 180 new local cases on Saturday, the government banned indoor social gatherings of more than five people and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people in and around Taipei. Wearing a mask will be mandatory everywhere, and all stores and restaurants that remain open must register customer details.
Leisure and entertainment venues have been forced to close nationwide under restrictions, which are expected to last until May 28.
Authorities further announced on Sunday that they were further stepping up testing and that hospitals should suspend all but the most urgent and critical surgeries and treatments until the risk of infection has decreased.
Taiwan’s strong performance in preventing local epidemics has enhanced public confidence and the satisfaction of Tsai’s administration and its public health team.
That sentiment has now been shaken, especially given Taiwan’s slow vaccination rate – a shortcoming due in part to health officials’ cautiousness about vaccines as long as there is no local spread. , and in part to the government’s fight to secure a vaccine deal with Pfizer over china opposition.
Taiwan’s highly technological Taiex index fell 8.4% last week, worst intraday drop since 1969 Wednesday, when investors predicted restrictions on business to stem the worsening epidemic. Taiex futures rose 1% on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.
Only 186,149 of the population of over 23 million had their first stroke on Saturday. The health authorities have only about 130,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine left; Moderna’s 5.05 million shot doses are expected to arrive in June. Locally developed vaccines are also expected to be available from July.
Taiwan on Saturday announced the temporary suspension of its voluntary Covid-19 vaccination program, as it urged members of priority groups to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Tsai said Taiwan has a year of preparation under its belt, with sufficient supplies of protective and medical gear, as well as consumer goods. “There is no need to panic, make sure you stay calm,” she said on Facebook, reminding residents that stores will continue to operate as usual.
Government officials posted images of well-stocked warehouses with personal protective equipment and other essential items on social media in an attempt to calm the nerves of residents. Carrefour said it would ration sales of masks, toilet paper, alcohol and instant noodles to avoid hoarding.
Taiwan’s ability to avoid lockdowns and other restrictions during the pandemic has protected the country from the worst economic suffering experienced elsewhere.
His gross domestic product increased around 3% last year, before rising to 8.2% in the first quarter of 2021, a pace not seen in decades. The good economic performance was driven by the boom in electronics exports and a net influx of Taiwanese residents last year, they sought refuge from the pandemic in other countries, including the United States.
The cabinet this week proposed a NT $ 210 billion ($ 7.2 billion) financial support package to cushion the epidemic’s short-term consumption blow.
“As long as we can get things under control quickly and effectively block the spread of the pandemic. . . a new wave of consumption will be stimulated after the situation calms down and this year’s economic growth may still be achieved as expected, ”the government said in a statement after a meeting of senior economic officials on Sunday morning.
Latest news on coronaviruses
Follow FT’s live coverage and analysis of the global pandemic and rapidly evolving economic crisis here.