by Brian Hioe

Photo Credit: Public Domain

15 DOMESTIC CASES, 36 imported cases, and zero deaths were reported by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) today. Eight cases were in Kaohsiung, four cases in Yilan, and three cases in Taoyuan. 

23 of the imported cases were found on arrival, while thirteen were found in quarantine. Imported cases are expected to decline, with a slowdown in travel during and after the Lunar New Year holiday. Likewise, with more flights today, this led to a lower rate of infection. Two imported cases were from Palau, as the first imported cases from Palau, in the wake of COVID-19 infections there.

The cases in Yilan are linked to a hotel in Jiaoxi. The source of infection is unknown, with 915 tested in connection to the case. 90 or so close contacts have been listed. Action was quick regarding this cluster, as a result of which spread seems limited. 

Infographic on the new cases from today (left) and on testing results for imported cases based on countries (right). Photo credit: Ministry of Health and Welfare/Facebook

Some new cases added in Kaohsiung and Taoyuan were found while in quarantine, meaning that the effect on the community should be limited. Cases in Kaohsiung at the Port of Kaohsiung include port workers who work on more than one ship, the owner of a store in the port, and their child, and workers from off-site who sometimes are in the port. 

Regarding the case at the Grand Hotel in Taipei, the source of infection for this cluster is unknown. However, the CECC states that it has some hints as to the source of infection for this cluster and the Yilan cluster. Cases in Hsinchu have been linked back to the bank in Taoyuan, with some cases in Hsinchu now deemed to be of less concern through genetic testing.

Although there were lower domestic cases reported today, the CECC warned that this could be due to reduced testing over the weekend. The CECC has emphasized the next few days as crucial as to investigating the spread of COVID-19. Nevertheless, there has been some difficulty tracking down workers or former workers at the Farglory. The CECC has urged these individuals to be tested. 

The current level two alert is maintained, but some measures that currently apply only to greater Taipei, Keelung, and Taoyuan will now be expanded nationwide. Masks must be worn outside at all times, including while singing, taking photos, or appearing on livestreams. 

Whether politicians continue to make their usual rounds or not is up to the Ministry of the Interior, but Chen Shih-chung stated that he hoped that politicians would set examples for members of the public. Likewise, testing for high schools and graduate schools will take place based on the CECC’s evaluation of COVID-19 prevention measures from educational institutions. 

QR code registration for contact tracing must also continue to be implemented. Outside of set areas, eating is not allowed on domestic flights. Social distancing should also be maintained for large gatherings, such as religious events. Dining establishments that violate COVID-19 prevention measures will be warned once and, afterward, will have their ability to provide indoor dining services suspended. 

Companies are discouraged from holding year-end banquets if they are unable to maintain COVID-19 measures. This decision is up to the company, though Minister of Health Chen Shih-chung mentioned that some companies have shifted to online year-end banquets. 

Outside of emergencies, hospital visits are not allowed. Hospital visitors must also have negative COVID tests from within three days. If they have been fully vaccinated with two doses, this will be publicly paid for, otherwise this must be privately paid. 

The same regulations apply to caregivers for the elderly and for long-term care institutions. Individuals that enter long-term care institutions cannot participate in group activities for fourteen days, though they may be released if they test negative for COVID-19 on the seventh day. The CECC is likely cautious regarding the possibility of COVID-19 clusters developing in long-term care institutions, as occurred in the past. 

The first shipment of Molnupiravir COVID antivirals arrived today, which is enough for 2,016 individuals. The overall order was for 5,000 people. An order for Pfizer COVID antivirals has now been increased to enough doses for 20,000 people. 

75,000 vaccinations took place yesterday. This brings coverage in Taiwan to 81.16% for first dose vaccination, 73.59% for second dose vaccination, and 16.64% for booster shots. Another round of booster shot vaccination is scheduled to begin on January 26th. 1,500,000 million doses of Moderna are expected to arrive in the next few days. 

Contact tracing map released for today. Photo credit: Ministry of Health and Welfare/Facebook

The CECC was asked about setting up specialized vaccination sites for Medigen, but did not give an answer. Taipei and other cities have stated that they will continue vaccination through the Lunar New Year holiday. 

686 cases are hospitalized currently for COVID-19, including both domestic or imported cases. 115 cases are in strengthened quarantine facilities.

The Taoyuan city government has announced plans to maintain strengthened quarantine facilities after the Lunar New Year. Taoyuan has also announced the suspension of many Lunar New Year festival events, including the lantern festival, as a COVID-19 prevention measure. 

The Taipei city government claims that 1,000 vials of Moderna are missing, as a result of the CECC, affecting 20,000 individuals. The CECC denied that this is the case today, asserting that this was due to Taipei making more vaccination appointments. Regarding plans by Taipei to roll out a vaccine passport system through the TaipeiPASS system, the CECC stated that it did not oppose vaccine passport systems rolled out by other cities. 

Chen Shih-chung emphasized that the CECC is still currently aiming for a COVID-zero approach, even as there is increasing discussion of co-existing with COVID-19.

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