CORONAVIRUS/Level 3 COVID-19 alert likely with widespread outbreaks: Health Minister
Taipei, Jan. 22 (CNA) Taiwan will have to raise the COVID-19 alert to Level 3 if widespread outbreaks happen in the communities, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said Saturday, noting the current spread of the disease remains under control.
Although the number of daily new domestic cases rose to 82 on Saturday -- the highest recorded in 2022, the sources of most infections are still traceable, Chen said at the Central Epidemic Command Center's (CECC) daily press briefing.
But if there are widespread infections at multiple locations, the government will have to raise the COVID-19 alert level, he said, noting the faster transmission of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Chen said it could become impossible to achieve the target of "zero COVID," and the government will make changes to its current measures used to handle the disease, including quarantine rules and contact tracing methods, so the situation can still be manageable for Taiwan's medical system.
The CECC is taking a step-by-step approach in its decision-making process, so society could handle the ongoing COVID-19 situation, Chen said.
The rise in locally transmitted cases Saturday did not lead to a change to the current Level 2 COVID-19 alert, which is due to expire on Jan. 24, but several measures and restrictions have been introduced to contain the spread of the disease, such as a ban on eating on public transport and enhancing the enforcement of registration required when people go to restaurants.
The registration measure was highlighted after some recent cases, who are believed to have been infected when dining at the same time with other people later confirmed to have COVID-19, did not register their visit to a restaurant in Taoyuan, according to Chen.
Because 63 domestic cases reported on Friday and Saturday involve migrant workers who have been in the community for a while since two of their coworkers had a meal at the restaurant on Jan. 9, the CECC is still looking into the scale of the spread of COVID-19 linked to these infections, Chen said.
As the nine-day Lunar New Year holiday is set to begin on Jan. 29, when many people travel for family gatherings, Chen said there is currently no plan to restrict people's movements, but the CECC is constantly reviewing its response to the virus.
Taiwan raised the four-tier COVID-19 alert to Level 2 on May 11 last year due to local COVID-19 infections of unknown sources. The alert was then raised to Level 3 first in Taipei and New Taipei on May 15 when the country recorded daily domestic cases of over 100 for the first time since its first COVID-19 case was reported in January 2020.
The Level 3 alert was introduced nationwide on May 19 and lasted until July 27, when the COVID-19 alert was lowered to Level 2, though several Level 3 rules, such as the requirement to wear a face mask when outside one's home, have been maintained.
The Level 2 alert has since been extended every two weeks, while the government relaxed some restrictions in the following months, before the rules were tightened again in early January, when several domestic cases linked to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport were reported.
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