CORONAVIRUS/Next 14 days critical to Taiwan's COVID-19 response: Tsai

03/19/2020 07:54 PM
President Tsai Ing-wen speaking at the Presidential Office Building.
President Tsai Ing-wen speaking at the Presidential Office Building.

Taipei, March 19 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Thursday that the next 14 days will be critical to Taiwan's COVID-19 prevention efforts, and called on the public to take three steps to assist the government's response, after a one-week period in which Taiwan's confirmed cases have more than doubled to 108.

Speaking at the Presidential Office Building, Tsai said that since confirming its first COVID-19 case two months ago, Taiwan has effectively mobilized to prevent the virus' spread during the first wave of cases from abroad.

However, with the global spread of the virus in recent weeks, "the next 14 days will be a critical second stage in the epidemic response effort, and we will need everyone to strengthen their resolve to meet this challenge," she said.

To assist the government's response, Tsai made three appeals to the public, starting with a call to follow the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) epidemic prevention guidelines, despite their inconvenience in the short-term.

Second, she urged people not to blame others for the outbreak, but instead be grateful for the sacrifices being made by medical personnel, manufacturers of protective supplies, and those complying with home quarantine and self-health management guidelines.

Tsai further asked that people refrain from creating panic and assist the government in transmitting accurate information about the virus.

In an apparent response to reports of panic-buying at supermarkets following the government's announcement Wednesday of 23 new COVID-19 cases and tighter border controls, Tsai pledged that supplies of consumer goods would remain stable, but warned that "if people are found hoarding supplies or manipulating prices, they will face heavy fines."

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) repeated Tsai's call for calm during the CECC's daily press briefing Thursday, pointing out that Taiwan has had relatively few indigenous cases of the virus, and has a prevalence rate tens of times lower than many other countries.

There will only be shortages if people engage in panic-buying, he said.

Assessing the overall state of Taiwan's response, Chen said the main focus is ensuring the virus does not spread at a community level.

Referring to the four signs that characterize community transmission of the virus, Chen said Taiwan does not meet the condition of "indigenous cases outnumbering imported cases," but said the situation still requires a high degree of vigilance.

The other three signs of community transmission are cases that cannot be traced to anyone known to have an infection, evidence of a continuous chain of infection, and a large number of cluster cases of the virus.

(By Yeh Su-ping, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Matthew Mazzetta)

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