Taiwan hit by record coronavirus cases as island abandons zero-Covid

A medical worker guides people on how to get a rapid test following a surge of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections in Taipei, Taiwan, on May 19, 2021.
PHOTO: Reuters

Taiwan, which has abandoned the zero-Covid strategy to live with the virus, hit a record number of domestic infections, rising rapidly from some 15,000 cases at the end of last month to more than 85,000 on Wednesday (May 18). 

Medical experts said the number of domestic cases was expected to continue to rise and peak in late May. The pandemic, which has been growing and shrinking all over the world, might show signs of easing in Taiwan by September, they said.

According to the island’s health ministry, the number of domestic cases in the week from May 12 to May 18 increased by 475,497, up from 302,597 the previous week.

“This represents that coronavirus has been rapidly transmitted in various communities in Taiwan,” the ministry said. It said 225 deaths were reported in the past week.

By Wednesday, Taiwan had reported 981,141 Covid-19 cases, with 968,742 local infections and 1,176 deaths.

Earlier this month, the island’s government said it had chosen to live with the pandemic instead of taking a zero-tolerance approach because the Omicron variant, although very contagious, was relatively mild compared with previous variants.

Having brought a previous outbreak under control through tight border controls and tough quarantine rules in the middle of last year, the island once again reported a fresh outbreak with slightly more than 100 new local cases recorded on April 1.

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Since then, the number of cases has risen sharply, prompting the health authorities to warn that local infections were on track to hit a peak of 100,000 new cases a day.

Taiwanese Premier Su Tseng-chang said last month the island was well prepared for the pandemic and there would be no lockdown such as that in Shanghai.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.