New Taipei City yesterday raised its COVID-19 alert to “augmented level 2” after tests indicated that the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 could be the cause of a cluster of infections at a kindergarten in Banciao District (板橋).
The heightened state of alert would remain in effect until Sept. 21 in response to the cluster that has been linked to 15 cases, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) told a news conference.
Preliminary tests by the Central Epidemic Command Center have ruled out the Alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2 — the main variant in Taiwan — as the cause of the outbreak, with further test results expected to be announced today.
If the preschool cluster is confirmed to be the Delta variant, the city government would reimpose a ban on dine-in services, Ho said, adding that the center could reimpose a level 3 alert in the city.
Under the “augmented level 2 alert,” hospitals, long-term care facilities and nursing homes are to close their doors to visitors and limit residents to one carer, he said.
The capacity of indoor venues is to be reduced to 50 people, open-air venues are to cut capacity to 100 people and enhanced entry controls would be required, he added.
The unnamed private kindergarten has been ordered to suspend classes for 14 days and an elementary school in the same district has closed for three days, Hou said.
Children and teachers at the kindergarten have been placed in quarantine and each child is staying with one parent at a quarantine hotel, he said.
Additionally, the city is to set up 32 new centers to administer COVID-19 tests, increase the number of specialists at hospitals and increase quarantine hotel capacity, he added.
The Delta variant is more virulent than the Alpha variant and its spread in the densely populated city must be checked, Hou said.
Asked about his city’s response to the cluster, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) yesterday said that he would review whether the existing protocols are adequate for combating the Delta variant.
Taipei officials would prepare a response after giving due consideration to international medical advice, he said, adding that the city government must avoid creating a panic.
In light of the New Taipei City cluster, a number of local governments have announced a ban on barbecues in public areas during the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 21.
As of press time last night, New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Keelung, Yilan County, Hsinchu City, Hsinchu County, Taichung, Nantou County, Yunlin County, Chiayi City, Chiayi County, Kaohsiung and Hualien County had issued a ban.
Additional reporting by Yang Hsin-hui
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