It is “very likely” that COVID-19 would spread across North America and Europe in 30 days, and the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is doing all it can to prevent such a scenario from affecting the nation, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) told lawmakers yesterday.
During a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Hung Meng-kai (洪孟楷) asked Chen for his view on a report published on Sunday that said the US Department of Defense expects COVID-19 to become a “global pandemic” in the next 30 days.
It is “very likely” that the epidemic would spread across North America and Europe in the next 30 days, said Chen, who heads the center.
Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times
Taiwan has escaped the first wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that began in China and contained the virus, and the center is making preparations against a second wave of outbreaks that are likely to originate in Europe, he said.
Quoting Chen, who said that it is impossible for the nation to avoid a community spread of COVID-19 “in the long term,” Hung asked Chen to define “long term.”
“We hope to make it as long term as possible,” Chen said.
Asked if it meant three months, six months or a year, Chen said that if the nation could prevent a community spread for a year, it would “have won the battle,” and if it is able to prevent such an occurrence in six months, it would be “quite a success.”
However, the nation would still be at risk of a community spread over the next three months, which is the “critical period” to determine the likelihood of such a scenario, he said.
Hung then asked why the CECC has not issued a level 3 “warning” travel advisory for Japan, which, as of yesterday, had “more than 1,000 confirmed cases.”
Chen corrected him, saying that cases confirmed aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship do not count as originating in Japan.
Excluding the confirmed cases aboard the ship, Japan had about 300 cases, which is more serious than Taiwan, considering the difference in the two nations’ population sizes, but not more serious than Italy, Chen said.
When the center issued a level 2 “alert” for Italy, it had 229 confirmed cases, but the nation has a population of about 60 million compared with Japan’s 120 million, he said.
There has not been a surge in the number of confirmed cases in Japan over the past several days, which means that neither the concentration of COVID-19 patients nor the speed at which the virus is spreading in Japan warrants a level 3 advisory, he said.
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