Taiwan reports 29 more Covid-19 community cases, not raising alert level for now

A recent small rise in domestic infections has spooked Taiwan's people and the stock market. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - Taiwan reported a record rise in domestic Covid-19 cases on Friday (May 14) with 29 new cases, as community transmissions in part of central Taipei spread and the government called for people to be tested.

While Taiwan has reported just 1,291 cases, mostly imported from abroad, out of a population of some 24 million, a recent small rise in domestic infections has spooked Taiwan's people and the stock market, long used to the island's relative safety.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told a news conference that of the 29 new domestic infections many were connected with an outbreak in Taipei's Wanhua district, an often gritty area that mixes old temples with trendy shops and hostess bars.

Chen called on people who think they may have had contact with the infected patients or symptoms to come to rapid testing stations the government is setting up around Wanhua.

"The sooner testing happens the sooner the chain of transmission can be broken," he added.

The cluster of the current infections has been linked by DNA sequencing to an earlier outbreak at an airport hotel and pilots at Taiwan's largest carrier, China Airlines.

Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang, writing on his Facebook page earlier on Friday, said that there is no need to raise the island's Covid-19 alert level for the time being and that compared with last year it has more experience and resources to fight the pandemic.

"With the cooperation of the central and local governments, the command centre has successively found the transmission chain between the confirmed cases, and there is no need to upgrade (the alert level) for the time being."

Comments by Chen on Wednesday that the alert level could soon be raised, which would potentially close all non-essential businesses, prompted a steep fall on the stock market, and officials have since downplayed the chances of that happening.

Taiwan has never gone into a full lockdown. The benchmark stock index rebounded on Friday, rising as much as 2 per cent in the morning before closing up 1 per cent.

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