Tsai reassures Taiwanese amid 'no joke' outbreak

Business | ASSOCIATED PRESS, REUTERS 13 May 2021

Taiwan's leader has sought to reassure the public that the government is capable of withstanding a Covid-19 outbreak after 16 local cases were detected.

"The challenge at this moment is still severe. Please be alert and follow the guidelines," President Tsai Ing-wen cautioned in televised remarks yesterday.

Tsai said medical supplies were sufficient and vaccines would continue to be distributed.

Taiwan had virtually eradicated domestic transmission of Covid-19 through strict mask wearing, case tracing, travel restrictions and quarantine measures.

It has counted 1,210 confirmed cases to date with the vast majority imported.

Announcing the increase in cases yesterday, health and welfare minister Chen Shih-chung said the latest outbreak was "not a joke.''

Taiwan's benchmark stock index was down more than 8 percent at one point in a fall that accelerated as Chen told parliament the alert level could be raised, potentially leading to strict new limits on gatherings and closure of non-essential businesses.

The index regained some ground but still closed down 4.1 percent, its biggest percentage fall since March 2020.

Chen later told reporters that the government would not be ordering a shift to stiffer restrictions for now.

"We are not going to raise the alert level yet," Chen said.

Five of the new cases were found in a gaming cafe in Yilan county on Taiwan's eastern coast. Another was in New Taipei City, just outside the capital.

None of the cases had recently traveled abroad and health authorities are performing contact tracing to determine the origins of the infections.

A seventh infected person was already in quarantine and had been in contact with a recently discovered cluster linked to pilots working for Taiwan's China Airlines.

On Tuesday, the island raised its emergency preparedness guidelines by banning indoor events with more than 100 people and outdoor events with more than 500 until early next month.

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