Taiwan’s health minister said today the government may ban all indoor gatherings of more than five people this week, after the second cluster of 10 domestically-acquired Covid-19 infections appeared in New Taipei City, the largest municipality in Taiwan by population.

With the New Taipei cluster being the second to be announced since yesterday, an additional cluster this week will bring Taiwan into a higher phase of its pandemic alert system.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), today announced 16 cases of locally-transmitted infections at the daily press conference on the pandemic, a day after Taiwan recorded five domestic cases in a cluster linked to a game hall in Yilan’s Luodong Township. The press briefing, usually beginning at 2:00 p.m., began about 10 minutes late. Chen said the delay was a result of the situation changing very fast.

Taiwan’s government Central News Agency (CNA) reported today that the 16 cases are “the highest number reported in a single day in the country since the outbreak began.”

According to CECC guidelines, Taiwan’s government will raise the pandemic alert to “Level 3” if three clusters of community infections emerge within a week. In this case, every resident will be required to wear a face mask in all public spaces and outdoor and indoor gatherings of more than 10 and five people, respectively, will be prohibited.

At level three alert, non-essential retail and food businesses will be asked to shut down until the CECC lifts the restrictions on gatherings. With the warning level at two at the moment, Chen said that the command center is likely to close down places unable to enforce crowd control measures, including night markets.

Domestic infections in the New Taipei cluster are all linked to a person who tested positive yesterday, CECC said. The person has visited several places in Xinzhuang and Luzhou Districts of the city.


Photo Credit: Reuters / TPG Images

People wear protective face masks while heading in a metro station following the outbreak of Covid-19, in Taipei, Taiwan, May 12, 2021.

Three of the cases announced today were linked with the Yilan game hall, the command center said, but sources of infections for the remaining cases testing positive for Covid-19 today remain unclear. Two of them are workers at different tea houses in Taipei’s Wanhua District. News Lens contributor and New Bloom founding editor Brian Hioe has reported that the Wanhua cases may bring about scrutiny of the districts sizable migrant sex worker population.

In a short speech at a Democratic Progressive Party central committee meeting before the press briefing, President Tsai Ing-wen called on the public to follow the CECC regulations to help curb the spread of the virus.

Tsai said that the healthcare system has the capacity to deal with the outbreak and medical supplies for disease prevention remain sufficient. While urging people not to panic, she said, “more vaccine doses are on the way.”

Taiwan has so far received two batches of Covid-19 vaccines, all AstraZeneca doses, and about 113,000 have been inoculated since March, according to the CECC. A batch of Moderna vaccine doses is expected to arrive this month.

The president also warned against misinformation on community infections in the speech. “You might come across messages from unknown sources these days,” she said. “Please verify the information before sharing messages that you have doubts about.”

Reports of a surge in infections before the conference sent Taiwan’s stock market into one of its worst days in history. The stock index plunged by 1,417.86 points in the morning, a record decline in intraday trading, according to CNA.

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

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