Taiwan’s health minister today said the country has entered “the phase of community transmission” after a cluster of five domestically-acquired infections emerged in Yilan County.

Minister Chen Shih-chung said the cluster has little to do with recent infections at the Novotel hotel, which has been linked to at least 22 domestic cases — many of whom are family members of pilots of China Airlines.

One of the seven new domestic cases announced today by the Central Epidemic Control Center (CECC) was that of a family member living with a pilot who had tested positive for the virus last week. A former chair of Lions Clubs International also tested positive.

The command center said five other domestic cases are linked to a baccarat game hall in Yilan’s Luodong Township. The sources of information of all these cases are unclear.

Of the six, a worker showed symptoms two days ago and was confirmed today to have contracted Covid-19. Three co-workers and a frequent customer were also found to have the virus after the local health department tested 35 people who had contact with the worker.

In light of the small cluster, the game hall will be closed for cleaning and disinfection. All the employees have been asked to stay at home in quarantine and test for the coronavirus.

Chen, who heads the CECC, also announced tightened restrictions on outdoor and indoor gatherings, decreasing limits to 500 and 100 people, respectively, until June 8.

Eating and drinking will also be banned on all trains and coaches till June 8, according to the center. From May 15, non-reserved seats will not be available on all trains and the Taiwan Railways Administration will suspend sale of standing-room only tickets.

The hot air balloon festival in Yilan’s Dongshan Township, scheduled to be held from May 29 to June 5, will be cancelled in response to the five cases recorded in the county. The Taipei city government also canceled Eid al-Fitr celebrations held in Daan Park. Several universities in the city scaled down graduation ceremonies and classes of more than 100 switched to remote learning.

Taiwan’s premier Su Tseng-chang also urged the public to “turn off vacation mode” by following the government’s policy to curb the spread of Covid-19 as the country has recorded sporadic cases of domestically-acquired infections for several days in a row.

“As Covid-19 infections are on the rise around the world, we should not let our guard down,” Su said. He also called on Taiwanese to get vaccinated if they are eligible. Since Monday, all citizens aged 65 and above are included in the country’s vaccination program.

To date, Taiwan has reported 1,210 cases of Covid-19, including 106 locally-transmitted cases and 12 deaths. 105 patients with the virus are currently hospitalized.

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TNL Editor: Bryan Chou, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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