Taiwan's new COVID-19 cases slow, but curbs to stay in coming weeks

TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan’s new COVID-19 infections have decreased and the outbreak can be controlled, the health minister said on Monday, as he urged the public to follow restrictions, which will stay in place in the coming weeks.

FILE PHOTO: Soldiers wear protective suits as they disinfect a street following the recent surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Tucheng district of New Taipei City, Taiwan May 27, 2021. REUTERS/Ann Wang

The island reported 347 domestic COVID-19 cases on Monday, including 73 cases added to the totals for recent days, as it continues to readjust its infection numbers amid delays in reporting positive tests.

That marked the second consecutive day in which new cases were below 400, after a rare uptick in domestic cases concentrated in Taipei and its nearby cities.

The increase, which peaked this month, prompted the government to tighten curbs, including banning in-restaurant dining and gatherings.

“The pandemic is heading towards a stage where it can be controlled,” Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told a daily news briefing, saying new cases continued to decline.

Chen said “aggressive measures” would remain in place for the one to two weeks, including fines for people not wearing face masks outside and a halt to wedding banquets and wakes.

He said more stations for rapid COVID-19 tests would be set up in Taiwan’s outlying islands, where medical resources are relatively limited.

Taiwan’s parliament approved on Monday an extra T$420 billion ($15.20 billion) in stimulus spending to help the economy deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The island is ramping up its vaccination campaign but has so far given shots to fewer than 2% of its more than 23 million people, though millions of additional doses are on their way.

The government said on Sunday it had signed deals with two local companies to provide up to 20 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccines.

But the administration is facing pressure to speed up purchases, and has said local governments, companies and religious groups can buy them, though need to go through the central government for authorisation.

Taiwan’s Cabinet said on Monday that Economy Minister Wang Mei-hua would act as coordinator for requests from companies.

Terry Gou, the billionaire founder of major Apple Inc supplier Foxconn, said on Saturday his charity plans to apply to import five million doses of BioNTech SE’s COVID-19 vaccine into Taiwan.

BioNTech declined to comment.

Taiwan has accused China, which claims the island as its own territory, of blocking a deal earlier this year for BioNTech shots, which Beijing denies.

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