Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center extended its Level 3 alert of the pandemic warning system until June 14, after placing the entire nation in a semi-lockdown until Friday last Wednesday.

Under the policy, all outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, and more than five people are not allowed to assemble indoors. Schools, kindergartens, and non-essential businesses are ordered to close to prevent unnecessary gatherings.

The command center today announced 283 cases of Covid-19 from testing yesterday, including two imported cases, and six deaths. Taipei and neighboring New Taipei recorded 49 and 154 cases, both down from yesterday’s 99 and 177. Another 261 cases were added to the backlog as the government revised the daily case counts of the past few days since the outbreak.

According to a chart by the CECC, the case counts for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday should be raised to 380, 344, and 334, respectively. The peak in infections occurred last Monday, at 510 cases.

In a daily press briefing on the pandemic, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the nationwide alert, set at Level 3 of Taiwan’s four-tier alert system, will be in place until June 14 as part of the government’s efforts to contain the community spread. The alert had been slated to end on May 28.

“From the trends we have seen, the situation is not deteriorating,” he said. “We are not planning to raise the level of warning, but we cannot lift the existing restrictions, either. There is a possibility that some cases are still unidentified, judging from the high daily caseload and high rate of positive tests.”

The extended period for semi-lockdown covers the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, likely to push people to cancel their plans to gather and celebrate.

Chen stressed the importance of personal responsibility in helping curtail the spread of infections. “Please wear a mask, practice social distancing, and avoid unnecessary gatherings,” he said. “It’s been a long time, but please hang in there, or the situation can put greater pressure on us in the future.”

Education Minister Pan Wen-chung said the ministry has notified all schools and kindergartens that they need to close down for another two weeks. Graduation ceremonies will be either canceled or held online, and students will switch to remote learning.

According to statistics, Taiwan saw the largest uptick today in Covid-19 infections among students, with 27 more testing positive. To date, a total of 145 cases of the virus have been reported to be students.

With pupils staying home, Pan said their parents will be allowed to take a leave from work to take care of their children under the age of 12 or with disabilities. For those who cannot do so, schools will be tasked with taking care of their children’s studies on campus.

In light of the surge in infections, the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines has come under greater scrutiny. While the latest batch of more than 400,000 AstraZeneca doses will be available by Friday, minister Chen announced in the press conference that Taiwan will have at least 10 million doses by the end of August, including Taiwanese-developed doses. At least two million are expected to arrive by the end of June.

“We hope vaccine manufacturers can supply these doses according to this schedule,” he said.

As Taiwan expects shipment of vaccine doses via COVAX, Chen urged the platform not to allow “external factors” to interfere with the distribution of vaccine doses.

Chen also told reporters that the government has not been informed of a Shanghai-based foundation’s offer of free vaccines. Shi Chiang-hua, the secretary general of Shanghai Health and Medical Development Foundation, said the organization is willing to donate a batch of vaccine doses for “humanitarian purposes,” United Daily reported.

Commenting on Chen’s call with U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services, Raymond Greene, Deputy Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said in a local television show that the United States is “concerned” about Taiwan’s request for vaccine doses.

U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to distribute at least 100 million doses to countries in need, but it is unclear if the list includes Taiwan. Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s representative to the U.S., said last week that the government has struck a deal with U.S. pharma group Moderna for 5 million doses.

Greene did not provide details regarding the deal, including when the doses might arrive, but the U.S. government will encourage vaccine manufacturers to supply the doses as soon as possible.

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

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