Taiwan on May 16 has reported a record 206 daily local novel coronavirus cases. 

Taiwan, Previously A Success Story In Handling Covid-19, Is Facing An Alarming Outbreak: What Went Wrong?

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Monday, May 17, 2021 05:50 PM IST
Taiwan, Previously A Success Story In Handling Covid-19, Is Facing An Alarming Outbreak: What Went Wrong?Taipei City, Taiwan (from Unsplash)

Taiwan witnesses sudden surge in Covid-19 cases which has triggered panic in people residing in the capital city Taipei.

Taiwan has raised its coronavirus alert level to three in the capital and has imposed restrictions for two weeks.

After more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic, while some countries are now busy vaccinating their people, many nations around the world are witnessing an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases.

The latest victim is Taiwan—which emerged as a pandemic success story when Covid-19 hit the world last year.

Almost 1,000 kilometres away from the Chinese city Wuhan, where the SARS-CoV-2 first emerged, President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration gained massive appreciation from around the world for its Covid-19 management efforts.

In 2020, when major cities like New York, London and Melbourne, as well as some parts of China, went into shutdown, Taiwan stayed open for business.

But in 2021, the situation in Taiwan is very different.

The East Asian country, Taiwan, is now facing its toughest restrictions after experiencing an alarming surge in Covid-19 cases.

On 16 May, Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, reported a record 206 daily local coronavirus infections, while the previous day had brought 180 new cases.

The sudden surge in Covid-19 cases has triggered panic in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, where residents rushed to shops and stripped shelves bare of noodles, as well as toilet papers, after authorities imposed new restrictions.

Last year, many countries faced the same panicked situation, but Taiwan was not one of them.

What Happened In Taiwan

Until the last weekend, Taiwan had impressively managed to limit its coronavirus cases since the pandemic began to below 1,500 cases.

As of now, Taiwan has lost only 12 lives due to the Covid-19—which highlighted the country’s preparedness for a pandemic situation.

Last year, when the Chinese authorities shut down Wuhan city, Taiwan had already set up its Central Epidemic Command Center and three weeks before that Taipei had sent an inquiry to the World Health Organization (WHO) asking for clarification on the disease.

However, the recent surge in community transmission has alarmed the Taiwanese population, who has been living a close to normal life and never faced a full lockdown.

On 15 May, the country had raised its coronavirus alert level to three in the capital, imposing two weeks of restrictions that may shut many venues and limit public gatherings.

The Taiwan government is encouraging people to work and study from home, while the authorities have decided to shut down cinemas, nightclubs and other entertainment spots while limiting the gathering of people to five indoors and ten outdoors.

The sudden spike in cases appeared after a hotel, the Taoyuan Novotel, quarantined China Airlines flight crew at its premises in April and the hotel staff became infected from the positive crew.

At that time, the hotel was also open to the public.

According to reports, the Taoyuan City Government Health Bureau said that the hotel had not been granted permission to be a quarantining facility. As a result, now the hotel will be fined $253,000.

The Central Epidemic Command Centre has confirmed that the new clusters were gnomically linked to the hostel’s leak.

University of Western Australia's epidemiologist, Dr. Zoë Hyde, tweeted that Taiwan’s new cases are caused by the B.1.1.7 variant which was first found in the United Kingdom.

However, Taiwan is currently hesitant to put in place stronger restrictions due to the concern that they will sacrifice the economy’s growth, especially at a time when companies, as well as governments around the world, are demanding access to supplies of the country’s semiconductors.

Last week, Taiwan President said: “We all need to protect Taiwan in the following year to maintain steady economic growth after we successfully contained Covid-19 over the past year.”

After the country’s top economic and financial officials met with Premier Su Tseng-chang, cabinet spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng said that the recent outbreak is likely to have a short-term impact on consumption.

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