Taiwan won’t go into lockdown like Shanghai despite Covid surge, premier says

Taiwan will not go into a Shanghai-like lockdown to control a rise in Covid-19 cases as the vast majority of those infected have no symptoms or show only minor symptoms, the premier, Su Tseng-chang, has said.

Taiwan has been dealing with a spike in local cases since the start of the year, but the numbers overall remain small – 18,436 since 1 January for a population of some 23 million – and just four people have died.

Backed by a high vaccination rate, the government has been promoting the “new Taiwan model”, learning to gradually live with the virus and avoiding shutting down the economy, unlike in Shanghai, which is in its third week of a lockdown to control the pandemic.

On Saturday, local authorities in Shanghai reported that 12 people infected with Covid died in the city on Friday, up from 11 the previous day. China’s financial hub recorded 20,634 new local asymptomatic coronavirus cases on the day, compared with 15,698 a day earlier. Total new symptomatic cases reached 2,736, up from 1,931 on Thursday.

Mainland China reported 24,411 new Covid cases on Friday, the country’s national health authority said on Saturday. The total number of cases was up from 18,598 a day earlier.

In Taiwan, Su said the government was confident in the steps being taken and it was “fortunate” more than 99% of cases were either asymptomatic or had mild illness.

“We will gradually deal with it and won’t be like Shanghai and go into lockdown, but we also won’t immediately stop wearing face masks and not take anti-pandemic measures,” he added.

The government expects daily cases to reach 10,000 by the end of the month and has warned the peak is likely several weeks off.

Su said more vaccines and rapid tests were on their way to help cope with the uptick in infections to “prepare for the next steps in reopening” and reduce the amount of time those with Covid or their contacts have to spend in quarantine.

The government has already cut the quarantine for all arrivals in Taiwan from two weeks to 10 days and is considering further gradual reductions as it looks to reopen its borders.

About 80% of Taiwan’s population is now double-vaccinated and almost 60% has had a first booster dose, while mask-wearing mandates remain in place.

Taiwan has reported 47,100 infections since the pandemic began more than two years ago and 856 deaths.

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