by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Tianmu peter/WikiCommons/CC

THE CENTRAL EPIDEMIC Command Center (CECC) announced 78 new domestic cases of COVID-19 and one imported case today, along with six deaths. The CECC states that it expects deaths to decline going forward, seeing as deaths were reflective of earlier periods in the outbreak, after which medical capacity stabilized. Of 12,806 people quarantined, 8,807 have been released, or 63%.

43 cases were reported in New Taipei and 25 cases were reported in Taipei. Three cases were reported in Nantou, two cases in Keelung, and one case each in Miaoli, Taoyuan, Taichung, Changhua, and Hsinchu. 

CECC categorizes greater Taipei as a high-risk area, while medium-risk areas are Keelung, Taoyuan, Miaoli, Changhua. Taichung was previously categorized as medium-risk, but is now at low-risk. 

Information on the new cases announced today. Photo credit: Ministry of Health and Welfare/Facebook

The CECC has consulted with local governments regarding the current level three alert status and is expected to announce what the policy going forward will be tomorrow around noon. The general view from local governments seems to be to maintain measures on a national basis, rather than classifying some areas in Taiwan as medium-risk and others as high-risk. 

New policies will be rolled out to PCR test individuals entering Taiwan one day before they are released from quarantine, or all close contacts of COVID-19 cases. These will be publicly paid for. With 5,000 in quarantine and 7,000 to 8,000 in home quarantine, it is expected that this may be 1,000 tests per day. 

Premier Su Tseng-chang has announced that categories eligible for vaccination will expand in July. This will include delivery workers, such as Uber Eats and FoodPanda drivers, taxi drivers, truck drivers, bus drivers, teachers, proctors of national exams, workers in childcare institutions, and workers at traditional markets. These categories are a total of 500,000 people.

The CECC has announced some shifts in vaccination eligibility, then, broadening some categories. Taxi, truck, and bus drivers are included in vaccination because they travel between different parts of Taiwan. Teachers, proctors, and workers in childcare institutions are included because they encounter people not currently included in vaccination groups as part of their work, and it is feared that they could potentially pass on COVID-19 to them. Moderna vaccinations were opened up to pregnant women, in light of that categories one to three have already been allowed to be vaccinated for some time. Schools are not in session, but measures to protect children will be rolled out when schools are opened again.

A new wave of Moderna vaccines from recent shipment will be distributed on July 1st. Vaccine allocation will be on the basis of the distribution category five personnel in different cities, as well the number of first dose vaccinations for Moderna in different cities. Nevertheless, one expects local governments to accuse the central government of lacking transparency in vaccination, as occurred many times during the outbreak to date. 

Information on the new deaths announced today. Photo credit: Ministry of Health and Welfare/Facebook

Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je attempted to pin blame for vaccine allocation to the Dianthus Clinic on DPP legislator Kao Chia-yu earlier this week, claiming that Kao was responsible for putting the Dianthus Clinic in touch with the city government. Kao states that after initially passing on a request from the Dianthus Clinic to the Taipei city government, she had no other contact with Dianthus, something Dianthus has echoed, stating that after the initial passing on of their request for vaccines, it communicated with the city government. 

Today, Kao stated that she would resign from her position if she was found to have any personal relations with Dianthus, or to have actively contacted Dianthus. The Taipei city government has struck back, claiming that Kao contacted them at least five times requesting vaccines for Dianthus.

Concerns continue regarding the cluster of cases at the Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation (TAPMC), which handles 1/3rd of fruit and vegetable distribution for Taiwan as a whole. Though the past week has added seven cases, there have been 45 cases there since May. A Liberty Times report today states that there were still crowds on-site this morning and that the Taipei city government is declining assistance from the central government. 

With Ko Wen-je vaccinating workers at TAPMC, the CECC stated that vaccinations should take place early on in case of illness with COVID-19 in order to be effective. The CECC has stressed that vaccines are a preventative measure for COVID-19, rather than a treatment measure. At the press conference today, the CECC also stressed that contact tracing remains of key importance in fighting COVID-19. 

Ko Wen-je may otherwise try to push back against the CECC about vaccination categories in the future. With fears of wasting vaccine doses, Ko has suggested that family members of medical personnel could be vaccinated. 

In the same timeframe, a cluster of cases at a long-term health care institution in Shilin has also led to criticisms of the Taipei city government. 48 cases have broken out at the institution, with three deaths to date. Reportedly, the institution did not contact the family members of residents at the institution, and the city government did not dispatch any personnel to oversee the development of the cluster, instead relying on photos to do so.

The Taipei city government is considering fines against the long-term care institution. Nevertheless, the Taipei city government has been criticized for lack of attention to the two cases, allowing clusters to expand over the course of two months. 

According to New Taipei mayor Hou You-yi, 59% of cases still are transmitted between families. 7% of cases are of unknown origin. Hou also stated that he did not see the conditions for lifting level three being met, with the possibility of COVID-19 returning in waves, the threat of the Delta variant of COVID-19, and insufficient vaccination.

Five brands of home test kits for COVID-19 testing will soon be available, consisting of four imported brands and one domestic brand. The different brands have different prices, but primarily cost around 1800 NT, with one brand costing 315 NT per dose. 

Different standards for antibody testing and difficulties integrating these standards have led to delays rolling out changes to the quarantine period for pilots. As such, some pilots have been made to return to a quarantine schedule involving three days of quarantine, followed by eleven days of self-health monitoring. 

There have been reports of delays with foreigners applying for subsidies for children with Taiwanese nationality, as part of childcare subsidies rolled out by the Executive Yuan. Foreigners have been asked to wait until the end of June before applying, despite present need.

Fujian prefecture, China, claims that it has found six imported cases of COVID-19. The CECC has stated that it has requested more information from Fujian about these cases.

The KMT continues to attack the DPP regarding delays in vaccines arriving in Taiwan. Only 1.2% of the AstraZeneca vaccines that Taiwan has ordered have arrived, while only 3.7% overall have arrived. To this extent, the KMT has denied ever calling for the purchase of Chinese vaccines, though party members including the head of the Sun Yat-Sen School, Chang Ya-chung, and former chair Hung Hsiu-chu have done so. 

With the Tsai administration credited for having secured vaccine donations from the US and Japan, KMT chair Johnny Chiang has criticized the Tsai administration as only having accomplished this at the cost of 500 lives. KMT legislator Lo Chih-chiang has also claimed that the Tsai administration was only pushed to beg vaccines from the US and Japan because of vaccine pressure from FoxConn CEO Terry Gou, who claimed that her would purchase German-manufactured vaccines directly from BioNTech, but later proved unable to when the company stated it was only selling vaccines directly to companies. As such, Lo claimed that it is Gou that should be credited for securing the vaccine donations. 

It is probable that members of the pan-Blue camp may next attack the Tsai administration on the issue of when the level three alert will be lifted. Shen Fu-hsiung, a former DPP legislator that later entered Ma Ying-jeou’s presidential administration as a member of the Control Yuan, has alleged that he believes the level three alert will last for one or two more months, claiming that the level three alert will last until vaccines arrive in Taiwan. As this may not be anytime soon, Shen alleges that level three will continue, and this will lead to bankruptcies of many businesses. Moreover, Shen has claimed that the Tsai administration has been irrationally anti-China on the issue of vaccine purchases from China. 

Further data released by the CECC. Photo credit: Ministry of Health and Welfare/Facebook

To this extent, Taiwanese media continues to report on the AstraZeneca vaccine as though it causes sudden deaths. In a notable example, ETToday reported on AstraZeneca as though it and other vaccines cause cancer. 

35 deaths were reported after vaccination today by the CECC, who were 41 to 94 years old. 25 of these cases were above 75 years old, while three were below 50. Nine were on dialysis, twenty-two of these cases had long-term conditions. The CECC maintains that there has been no proven link between vaccinations and deaths. 

With declines in the number of people being vaccinated, the CECC will not block people that fail to arrive for their vaccination appointments from being vaccinated in the future

The CECC is hoping for more vaccines to arrive in July, in accordance with the originally announced schedule for vaccines arriving in Taiwan, but this is difficult to anticipate. With TSMC and FoxConn hoping to purchase ten million BioNTech vaccines, the CECC has stated that this is a special case that they hope to quickly take care of. If too many other non-government groups try to purchase vaccines, this may create complications.

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