Taiwan’s Level 3 restrictions on gatherings will be in place until July 12, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung announced today, as new Covid-19 cases continue a steady decline from their peak.

“The situation has been improving, but the criteria for moving to a lower level of alert have not been met yet,” Chen said at the daily press briefing on the pandemic. “We have to stick it out for two more weeks.”

Under Level 3 conditions, outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, and more than five people are not allowed to assemble indoors. Schools and non-essential businesses, including entertainment venues, are ordered to close their doors.

Taiwan has been placed under Level 3 restrictions for more than a month. The government introduced the measures in mid May after recording triple-digit cases for five consecutive days and they have been extended for three times ever since.

But after a peak on June 5, Taiwan’s daily caseload has been on a downward trend, from 476 to around a hundred with minor fluctuations.

The Central Epidemic Command Center today announced 104 cases of Covid-19, all domestically acquired, and 24 deaths. On Monday, the government recorded 75 cases, the first double-digit daily caseload since the outbreak in mid-May.

With the pandemic slowly coming under control, some experts and government officials have advocated for a downgrade of Covid-19 restrictions prior to today’s announcement.

Dr. Hsiu-Hsi Chen, Professor of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at National Taiwan University, said Taiwan has met several criteria for lowering the level of alert. He pointed out that as confirmed cases have been declining, the reproduction number for the virus has been below one since June 5. It reflects that the outbreak is shrinking.

The professor also cited that more than 50% of high-risk groups, including medical staff and the elderly above the age of 75, have received the first dose of a vaccine.

Huang Wei-che, the Mayor of the southern city Tainan, said before the announcement of the extension that it could cause public grievances because the country has been shut down for more than a month.

Huang suggested that the government lift some restrictions in Tainan by allowing more people to gather in public spaces, including campuses and sports fields, if crowd control is possible.

Calls for loosening restrictions in cities and counties outside Taipei and New Taipei, which have recorded the majority of Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the outbreak, have been persistent. But Minister Chen has said the government will apply the same set of measures to the entire country.

Chen said yesterday at a daily press briefing that some venues may be allowed to reopen. The CECC will consider “how beneficial it is to open a venue, how well the venue can enforce mask wearing and social distancing, and how many people might visit the venue after it reopens.”

Despite the extension of restrictions, he told reporters today all the existing measures will be reviewed and modified “on a rolling basis.”

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

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