Taiwan extends level three alert to June 14 as Covid outbreak continues to spread

Taiwan has extended its level three alert to June 14 as its Covid outbreak continued to grow with local cases reaching 723 on Saturday, May 22, and 633 cases today, Wednesday, May 26. Wednesday also saw a record-high 11 deaths while over 300 people who tested positive for Covid are still missing.

Saturday’s figure reflects a backlog of 400 cases that occurred during last week with the other 323 (321 local) cases being new (reported the previous day). Since then, the cases reported on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday have included both hundreds of new cases and hundreds of backlogged cases stretching back to the previous 6-10 days. Wednesday’s total includes 302 new local cases and 331 backlogged cases. Every single municipality and county on Taiwan has recorded cases, while Matsu (Lienchiang) became the first outlying island to record a case on Wednesday.

A significant part of the outbreak has occurred in Taipei, specifically Wanhua district and its “teahouses,” where hostesses accompany customers as they drink, chatting and even providing services of the red light kind, which has led the Control Yuan to launch an investigation into these places. Almost 900 people from Wanhua have tested positive, with over 500 being linked to the teahouses.

Taiwan’s Covid “success story” is fraying now that Taiwan is experiencing a massive outbreak. However, the authorities will need to adopt some new methods whilst holding on to others methods, according to these academics in the Diplomat.

As Taiwan struggles to cope with the outbreak, one major challenge is for firms to implement working from home, which in Taiwan presents several difficulties, as reported by Al Jazeera as well as by the Guardian. That said, there are firms that have implemented work from home such as over 200 finance firms.

Besides Covid, Taiwan’s current troubles include electricity blackouts and worsening drought, leaving it vulnerable to China, argues this writer in SCMP.

Taiwan’s serious water and power problems stem from worsening climate change as well as a sluggish government response over the years, reports Bloomberg.

One major issue in Taiwan is a scarcity of Covid vaccines but it is expecting two million vaccine doses to arrive by the end of June and 10 million by August.

China has offered to sell Taiwan Covid vaccines in light of Taiwan’s vaccine shortage, though for political reasons, this would be difficult for some in Taiwan to accept.

Taiwan was unable to participate in the World Health Organization’s annual World Health Assembly again this year. The health meeting kicked off virtually on Monday, May 24, and will run until June 1.

Exports surged to almost US$5 billion in April, an increase of 42.8 percent from last year.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s approval rating has fallen to a 21-month low of 45.7 percent, according to a monthly survey released by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation.