The COVID-19 situation in Taiwan is far from necessitating a lockdown, but advance preparation and drills are necessary, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday.
Chen, who heads the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), first made the remarks at a morning news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei and repeated them at the CECC’s daily news briefing in the afternoon.
A cluster of 28 cases have been found in the crew members of the navy supply ship Panshih (磐石) over the past five days, and more than 90 locations in 10 cities and counties visited by the infected crew from Wednesday to Saturday last week were published, causing public concern over community spread.
Chen yesterday said the cluster was an emergency situation and everyone should stay vigilant, but no domestic cases have been reported in Taiwan for 10 consecutive days.
“Considering the global and domestic disease situations, as well as the control over emergency situations, it is not the time to implement a lockdown in Taiwan,” he said. “Everyone should be cautious, but we are far from implementing a lockdown.”
His remark came in response to a media inquiry about Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) on Tuesday saying that if the cluster were to spread to local communities, he would consider canceling the Workers’ Day long weekend next week or even ordering a lockdown if the situation got worse.
Yilan County Commissioner Lin Zi-miao (林姿妙) also said that if the disease situation became unstable in Taiwan, she would not rule out the possibility of cooperating with the CECC on ordering a lockdown in the county.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday said ordering a lockdown in Taipei would be difficult, as it would involve central government buildings in the city, but the city government plans to hold a tabletop exercise to simulate its response to a lockdown next week.
At the CECC in the afternoon, Chen said some local governments have concerns and they intend to protect their residents, but added that he thinks the decision should be made based on scientific evidence.
“While Taiwan has not reported a domestic case for 10 consecutive days, it is more important to discuss how enhancing disease prevention targeted at those who have had direct contact with confirmed cases,” he said. “It is a little too early to be discussing a lockdown.”
However, Chen said that advance preparation for different stages of disease outbreak is necessary, and that the CECC would provide guidelines to local governments on how to prepare for the three stages — the transition/persuasion period, the alert period and the control period — adding that they can discuss any problems with the center.
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