Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center raised the Covid-19 alert to Level 3 today for the entire country, after recording triple digit cases of the virus for the fifth consecutive day.

The nationwide alert came after Taipei and New Taipei moved to Level 3 of the country’s four-tier alert system on Saturday, when the command center announced more than a hundred local cases of Covid-19. The series of restrictions that have been imposed — though short of a complete lockdown — are the strictest national-level prohibitions on gatherings since the pandemic began.

In a daily press briefing, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the alert for the entire country will be in place until May 28. “As the situation develops, we will review the policy on a rolling basis,” he added.

Under the new alert, mask wearing in public is required and non-essential businesses and venues will be ordered to close their doors to customers. All outdoor gatherings will be limited to 10 people, and more than five people are not allowed to assemble indoors. Violators are subject to fines starting at NT$60,000, with a maximum up to NT$300,000.

The Level 3 alert was imposed for all of Taiwan after over half of its 22 municipalities, cities, and counties have recorded at least one case of Covid-19, signaling a spread of the virus from the northern to the southern part of the country.

In response to the spread, Chen said the CECC will hold a national level meeting on the pandemic every morning from tomorrow to “coordinate disease prevention resources, review the execution of Covid-19 measures, and combat disinformation.” Mayors and deputy mayors of all municipalities, cities, and counties will be invited to participate.

There will also be an additional press briefing every day on the recent outbreak after the normal daily briefing held since the start of the pandemic in Taiwan to help clarify unverified information on the situation, Chen added.

Today, the CECC announced 275 new cases, 267 domestically-transmitted and 8 imported cases. New Taipei saw an uptick from yesterday’s 106 to today’s 129 cases, most in the district of Zhonghe, and Taipei a drop in cases from 102 to 70, most in the district of Wanhua, the center of a cluster of more than 300 domestic cases linked to tea houses. The southern city of Tainan recorded its first case of Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

Today’s cases sent Taiwan’s total Covid-19 caseload to 2,533, including 1,386 locally-transmitted cases and 14 deaths.

The surge in local infections across the country has prompted people to crowd hospitals across the country to test for the virus. In the briefing, Chen reiterated that it is unnecessary for those who “have not come in contact with confirmed cases, have not been to places where they visited before testing positive, or do not show symptoms of the virus” to get tested.

“The timing of the test is important,” he said. “If you do not get tested at the right time, it is possible to test negative when you turn out to be positive in the next few days.”

Chen said panic testing puts an undue burden on the healthcare system and slows down the speed at which health authorities identify the real sources of infections.

The outbreak also has driven an increase in vaccination, with more than 20,000 people having received a jab yesterday alone. In March, less than 2,000 were vaccinated on average every day. President Tsai Ing-wen announced that 410,000 more AstraZeneca vaccine doses have arrived in Taiwan in the afternoon.

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

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