Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday promoted the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) from a “level 2” to a “level 1” government entity to streamline communication and better contain the spread of COVID-19, while Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) would continue to serve as head of the center.
Chen at the weekly Cabinet meeting suggested that Su promote the CECC to a “level 1” entity, Executive Yuan spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka said, adding that Su accepted the suggestion and reappointed Chen as head of center.
With the COVID-19 outbreak escalating around the world, “the best defense for Taiwan is a good offense, which is the front line of disease prevention to preempt a major outbreak,” Su said.
Despite its proximity to China, the nation has been able to restrict COVID-19 to “minor community outbreaks,” mostly contagion within families, which shows that Chen is the most fitting candidate to serve as CECC head, Kolas said in response to queries as to why the premier had chosen Chen instead of himself for the job.
The promotion to “level 1” would facilitate the distribution of resources and communication between relevant government agencies, whose deputy ministers would be required to be on standby at the CECC at all times to attend regular meetings, Kolas said.
Chen told a later news conference that he had made the suggestion after seeing other nations accumulate more than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in less than five days.
Chen thanked Su for having faith in him and pledged to take preemptive measures to contain the coronavirus.
Hospitals are to set aside more wards to be used as isolation wards in the case of an emergency, Chen said, adding that this would likely increase the nation’s capacity to screen the disease to 2,450 people per day starting next week.
Earlier, with the Tomb Sweeping Holiday approaching, Su ordered government agencies to inform Taiwanese businesspeople and students returning from affected nations and regions to monitor their health at home for 14 days upon their arrival.
They should be informed upon boarding their flights of the penalties they would face if they leave home during the quarantine period, he said.
Su also approved a plan by Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) for the nation to set up an extra 30 mask production lines.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs is carrying out a plan to add 60 production lines by March 10, which would bring the nation’s daily production to about 10 million masks, Small and Medium Enterprise Administration Director-General Ho Chin-tsang (何晉滄) said.
The 30 extra lines would further boost the nation’s mask production to between 12 million and 13 million per day, Ho said, without giving a time frame for when the additional lines would be completed.
Additional reporting by Lin Hui-chin
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