Taiwan’s COVID-19 restrictions and mask regulations are to remain the same next month, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday.
The center reported 42,112 new local COVID-19 cases and 85 deaths, saying that the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has dropped to a new low this month.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said that the center is keeping COVID-19 restrictions and mask regulations the same due to the local virus situation, and an increase in the number of imported cases of the new Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of SARS-CoV-2, among other risk factors.
Photo courtesy of the New Taipei City Labor Bureau
Easing mask regulations was discussed in CECC meetings, but crowd flow has increased over the past couple of weeks and the number of new local cases remains about 40,000 per day, Chen said.
“We hope people can cooperate and endure it — wearing a mask properly — a little longer, as it is possibly the very important last mile,” he said.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩), head of the CECC’s disease surveillance division, said that 42,112 new local cases and 92 imported cases had been reported, with 227 cases with moderate or severe symptoms and 85 deaths confirmed.
CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division, said that 81 of the people who died had underlying health conditions, while 51 of them were aged 80 or older.
Two men in their 30s died, he said, adding that they both had cancer and were unvaccinated.
One died of pneumonia, respiratory failure and metastatic cancer, while the other one had been in hospice care and tested positive for COVID-19 after being exposed to a confirmed case in the hospital, Lo said, adding that the man died the next day because his cancer condition had worsened.
As of yesterday, the number of people in COVID-19-designated hospitals had declined to 5,631, from a high of 7,592 on June 6, Lo said.
Yesterday’s figure was the lowest since May 31, he added.
The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 is steadily falling across the nation, marking the end of the infection plateau, he said, adding that the number of people in intensive care units is also steadily falling.
Asked about a doctor’s remark that COVID-19 deaths are expected to fall below 100 per day by early next month, CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), who is the CECC’s spokesman, agreed that it was likely.
However, confirmation that deaths are related to COVID-19 can lag behind the death date, so the daily death toll can sometimes exceed 100 because of that, he added.
Asked when people can return to “normal living,” Lee Ping-ying (李秉穎), convener of the ministry’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases, said that the local outbreak is hard to predict, as Taiwan is facing the first wave of a large outbreak, which could continue for months.
The Omicron wave lasted three months in Japan, four to five months in South Korea and more than six months in New Zealand, Lee said, adding that experts have differing opinions on trends and countries have had different experiences.
As new variants of SARS-CoV-2 can emerge, waves of the infection are expected to hit Taiwan periodically, like the seasonal flu, so disease prevention measures are still needed, he said.
It might take years for people to coexist with the virus without having peaks of cases, Lee added.
Regardless of other countries’ experiences, the CECC focuses on “living with the virus while minimizing the harm” by having adequate supplies of vaccines and antivirals, increasing the efficiency of prescription drugs, managing confirmed cases and close contacts, monitoring the nation’s border controls, and efficiently allocating hospital beds for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, Chen said.
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