While the government yesterday largely relaxed restrictions on large gatherings, as well as social distancing and mask-wearing rules, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) reiterated the importance of wearing masks and practicing personal protective measures against COVID-19.
The nation has had no new domestic COVID-19 cases for eight straight weeks, and as of yesterday, 430 infected patients had been released from isolation, while only six patients were in isolation waiting for three consecutive negative test results, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center.
“There have been no domestic cases in eight weeks, so we [decided] to ease domestic restrictions,” he said.
Photo: Fang Pin-chao, Taipei Times
“However, strict border controls will remain,” he added.
Taiwan has only passed the “midterm exam” with good scores, but people would have to maintain good personal hygiene and practice the “new disease prevention lifestyle” to pass the “final exam” before effective vaccines are developed, Chen said.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is also CECC spokesman, reported the findings of a simulation study conducted by Academia Sinica and CDC researchers using a scenario in which the “new disease prevention lifestyle” was applied, as well as the responding mitigation plan.
The study used a simulation model for influenza virus transmission as its basis, categorized the population into five age groups based on a previous study suggesting different interpersonal contact patterns among the groups and referred to parameters used this year in a British study on COVID-19 to set a possible scenario, Chuang said.
The scenario assumed relaxed border controls, resulting in about one new imported case every five days, an incubation period of 5.1 days and a basic reproduction number of 2.4, he said.
Under the scenario, if two people close to each other both wear masks, the risk of infection can be reduced by 70 percent, by 45 percent if only one of them wears a mask and by 69 percent if they keep a distance of at least 1.5m indoors, he added.
As Taiwan has a hospital isolation room capacity of about 3,000, under the scenario, the nation’s healthcare system would become overwhelmed if mask-wearing compliance falls below 60 percent, Chuang said.
The healthcare system can function normally for only 200 days if the rate is about 70 percent, he said, adding that the rate must be above 80 percent for the healthcare system to be safe.
The study suggests that wearing a mask or keeping a social distance of at least 1.5m indoors is still crucial in preventing COVID-19 infection, Chuang said.
The study can give the CDC a rough estimate of the extent to which people must practice personal protective measures to prevent a serious local outbreak if border controls are relaxed, he added.
The virus has infected more than 6.9 million people and killed more than 400,000 across 187 countries.
Chen said the disease has a global mortality rate of about 5.8 percent.
Taiwan has reported 443 confirmed COVID-19 cases, which ranks the nation 140th among 187 countries, he said, adding that the number of confirmed cases per million people in Taiwan is 18.8, placing the nation at No. 168.
Taiwan’s success in fighting COVID-19 was due to its relatively flexible regulations and strict border controls, he said, adding that the nation did not issue stay-at-home orders or order general business shutdowns.
Its success was mainly due to the public being cooperative and accurate disease information being made transparent, he said.
Taiwan has expanded its testing capacity from about 500 tests per day to more than 6,000, Chen said.
The number of COVID-19 tests for each confirmed case in Taiwan was 164.9 as of Thursday, which ranks the nation third behind New Zealand at 250.4 and Australia at 213.9, he said.
As the domestic COVID-19 situation is under control, the center has launched the bilingual Web site “Crucial Policy for Combating COVID-19” (COVID-19臺灣防疫關鍵決策網) (https://COVID19.mohw.gov.tw) to share Taiwan’s efforts in fighting the outbreak, including a timeline of major events and response policies.
The frequency of the CECC’s news briefings would also be reduced from once a day to once a week starting this week, Chen said.
ANTI-SHIP CONFIGURATION: The Tuo Chiang-class vessels are to be built for NT$9.7 billion by Lung Teh, a shipyard that previously built four similar corvettes for the navy The Ministry of National Defense on Wednesday awarded Lung Teh Shipbuilding (龍德造船) a NT$9.7 billion Co (US$317.57 million) contract to build five Tuo Chiang-class corvettes with anti-ship capabilities, a defense official familiar with the matter said yesterday. The corvettes would carry vertical launchers for four Hsiung Feng II (HF-2) missiles, as well as eight Hsiung Feng III (HF-3) anti-ship missiles, in contrast to ships configured for anti-air warfare, which carry eight HF-2 and four HF-3 missiles, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The anti-ship corvettes would be armed for improved standoff range against surface combatants and carry the latest
PARTIAL SUPPORT: Morris Chang said he agrees with the US’ goal to slow advances of China’s chip sector, but US policies that might boost chip prices perplex him Washington’s efforts to on-shore semiconductor production might lead to surges in chip prices and supply bottlenecks, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) founder Morris Chang (張忠謀) said yesterday. The 91-year-old industry veteran said he supports parts of Washington’s effort to slow China’s progress on advanced chip manufacturing. China is still six years behind Taiwan in making advanced chips, despite years-long efforts to catch up, Chang told a Commonwealth Magazine forum that he coheadlined with Tufts University assistant professor Chris Miller, an expert on the US-China rivalry’s effects on chip manufacturing. However, Chang said that other parts of the effort, particularly Washington’s on-shoring
‘COINCIDENCE’: The former president should keep in mind local and global response to his actions and abide by the law to safeguard national interests, the MAC said The Presidential Office yesterday confirmed that it has received an application from former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to visit China next week and would be discussing his security detail. “As the travel restrictions on former president Ma have expired, we respect his plan to pay respect to his ancestors in China,” Presidential Office spokeswoman Lin Yu-chan (林聿禪) said. “We will review his travel plan and consult concerned agencies to assist him in arranging his security detail.” “We also hope that Ma, as a former commander in chief of Taiwan, acts in a manner that aligns with national interests and does not hurt
ALL CHILDREN ELIGIBLE: The Cabinet approved the latest version of the tax rebate distribution plan that unlike earlier versions, has no age limit, the finance ministry said Taiwanese and eligible foreign residents can from next week register online for a tax rebate of NT$6,000 (US$196) from last year’s NT$380 billion revenue surplus, the Ministry of Finance said yesterday. The Cabinet earlier in the day approved the rebates for Taiwanese, foreign spouses of Taiwanese, foreign diplomats and their spouses, and Alien Permanent Resident Certificate holders, it said. Parents can also claim the rebates for their children, the ministry said, after earlier versions of the plan had excluded young children. Registration via 6000.gov.tw would be open from 8am on Wednesday, the ministry said, adding that the rebates would be wired to peoples’