Taiwan extends level 3 alert islandwide as Covid outbreak surges to over 1200 local cases in five days

Taiwan has extended a level 3 alert to the entire island after an ongoing Covid outbreak hit a record 333 local cases on Monday, May 17, after 206 cases on Sunday, May 16, and 180 cases on Saturday, May 15. Saturday’s total was a massive leap from the 29 local cases, which was then a record, on Friday. Taiwan also saw 240 local cases on Tuesday and 267 local cases today (Wednesday).

Taipei and New Taipei City had on Saturday moved into level 3 alert, which mandates compulsory mask-wearing at all times outdoors and the closure of non-essential businesses and public venues. The two municipalities also closed elementary and high schools, as well as kindergartens, for two weeks, with the central government then ordering the same for schools all over Taiwan. Several municipalities including Taipei had already closed several types of businesses from Friday including bars and saunas.

The shutdowns will have an impact on Taiwan’s economy and stock market, which saw declines last week. This outbreak has been a bit of a shock given Taiwan’s record in handling Covid since last year, but there are reasons for this, stemming from complacency and oversight, as reported by Nikkei Asia, Washington Post, and the Guardian. Bloomberg also has a take on this with emphasis on the “Lion King” and partying pilots.

Another concern is the low number of vaccines and hence, vaccinated people in Taiwan, which is resulting in the government rushing to get new vaccine supplies.

For many in Taiwan, fears of China center on economic and political pressure and intimidation rather than violent invasion, reports MSNBC.

Taiwan experienced a massive rolling blackout on Thursday, May 13, due to grid failure triggered by the accidental shutdown of a power plant in Kaohsiung. Taiwan then experienced another blackout on Monday night due to problems at that same plant. Thursday’s blackout saw millions of households and businesses across Taiwan lose power in alternate 50-minute stretches as traffic lights went offline and elevators got stuck with people inside.

The government has approved three referendums on whether to ban US pork, whether to move a planned LNG plant to another location, and whether to hold referendums on the same day as general elections. The referendums will be held on August 28 this year, alongside another one on whether to resume building a stalled fourth nuclear energy plant.

A number of protesters from Hong Kong have fled to Taiwan since last year, with some staying while others moved on to the US.