Taiwan orders toughest curbs amid infections spike

A worker disinfects a school in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo: 16 May 2021

Taiwan’s government has imposed its toughest restrictions so far, as the island tries to battle a spike in Covid-19 cases. The authorities are shutting down cinemas and entertainment venues until 28 May, while limiting gatherings to five indoors and 10 outdoors.

President Tsai Ing-wen urged the public not to panic-buy basic necessities. Taiwan, which has so far survived the pandemic almost unscathed – on Sunday reported 207 new infections. The island of 23 million people has recorded 1,682 infections and 12 Covid-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Taiwan’s impressive success battling the coronavirus has been largely attributed to early and strict border controls, a ban on foreign visitors and mandatory quarantine for all Taiwanese returning home. In a separate development on Sunday, Singapore said all schools as well as junior colleges and universities would shift to home-based learning from 19 May amid a spike in infections.

Singapore on Sunday reported 49 new cases, including 38 locally transmitted infections. This is the highest daily tally since last September. Singapore has so far confirmed more than 61,000 cases, with 31 deaths. The government said masks must be now worn outdoors, urging people to work and study from home. The capital Taipei remains the main infections hotspot, forcing the city authorities to raise the coronavirus alert there to Level 3.

Taiwan has four Covid-19 response levels, and the Level 3 alert stops just short of lockdown, local media say. This is unprecedented, as Taiwan has until now not had to resort to such restrictions since the outbreak began.

A man takes instant noodles from a near-empty shelf in a supermarket in Taipei, Taiwan. Photo: 16 May 2021
Some Taipei supermarkets shelves were quickly emptied by concerned customers

In addition, shoppers across the island are being restricted to buying just two items of some goods after supermarket shelves were emptied in recent days. President Tsai on Saturday warned that panic-buying would only increase the risk of Covid-19 clusters.

Instant noodles and food in general, as well as toilet paper, was available in sufficient quantities and could easily be stored again by retailers, the president was quoted as saying by the Taiwan News.

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