CORONAVIRUS/Cities again mandate mask-wearing in indoor spaces as virus resurges

08/05/2020 11:32 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, Aug. 5 (CNA) Four Taiwan cities -- Taipei, New Taipei, Tainan and Taichung-- have reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing in certain indoor places, after several foreign nationals returning to their home countries from Taiwan tested positive for COVID-19, sparking fears of a resurgence of local infections.

Tainan Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said Tuesday that people in his city will again be required to wear masks in enclosed spaces, such as karaoke clubs, study centers, elevators, cram schools and movie theaters, with immediate effect. Fines against violators of the order will go into effect after a two-week grace period, he said.

Taichung Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) and New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-ih (侯友宜) also said Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, that their cities will step up enforcement of mask-wearing in the aforementioned five places.

Meanwhile, at a Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) press conference Wednesday, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) reiterated the CECC's guidelines that people should wear masks in enclosed spaces and venues where there are large numbers of people.

With global infections approaching 19 million, the CECC listed eight places designated as high risk, including medical care centers, public transportation, schools and religious centers.

Other places, such as markets, performance centers, entertainment centers and areas where large numbers of people are gathered are also on the list.

Chen said that with fewer people in Taiwan wearing masks in public, the chances of a COVID-19 resurgence will increase.

Following the CECC's advice, the Taipei City government announced Wednesday that people visiting public venues and hospitals and taking public transportation in the city must wear masks, starting 5 a.m. Thursday.

None of the cities, however, have specified the fines for violation of the mask-wearing rules.

The CECC and local governments have stepped up enforcement of mask-wearing regulations since three foreign nationals traveling from Taiwan were diagnosed with COVID-19 upon their return home in June and July.

Two of those cases, involving a Japanese student and a Thai worker, were closed Wednesday, with the CECC concluding that they posed no risk to communities in Taiwan, according to Chen.

All of the PCR and antibody tests on the 213 people who were in contact with the Japanese student came back negative, Chen said, adding that the student was tested again on July 28, and the results came back negative.

As for the Thai worker, Chen said, all of the PCR and antibody tests on the worker's 253 contacts were negative, which led the CECC to conclude that the case did not pose a threat to communities in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the case of a Japanese engineer, who tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Japan on Aug. 1, is still being investigated, as is the case of a Belgian man who tested positive last week prior to his departure from Taiwan, according to the CECC.

To date, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Taiwan was 476, with 384 classified as imported, according to the CECC.

Globally, COVID-19 has infected 18,516,907 people in 187 countries and regions, including 4,859,337 in the United States, 2,801,921 in Brazil, 1,855,745 in India, with a total of 700,477 fatalities, according to CECC statistics as of Wednesday.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and intern Evelyn Yang)

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