Taiwan’s government said on Saturday restrictions would be tightened after a rare surge in domestic transmission of the Omicron variant, saying it needed to act now to prevent being overwhelmed, even though overall numbers remain quite low.
After months of no or few community infections, Taiwan has seen a small rise in local Covid-19 cases since the beginning of January, mainly linked to workers at the main international airport in the northern city of Taoyuan who were infected by arriving passengers, Reuters reports.
On Friday evening the government announced 60 new cases at a factory near the airport after testing 1,000 workers.
There have been no deaths and most of the cases have had only mild or no symptoms.
In a statement, premier Su Tseng-chang said that, even though this outbreak has brought no serious illness, steps needed to be taken. “If the pandemic cannot be contained, it will still cause a burden on the medical system,” he said.
New restrictions will include a ban on eating and drinking on public transport and limits on the number of people visiting temples, ahead of the week-long lunar new year holiday, which starts at the end of this month.
Testing will be expanded to reach the largest number of possible contacts, said the health minister, Chen Shih-chung.
“Of course we think this pandemic is threatening, so we must raise our vigilance,” he said.
Taiwan has been highly successful at controlling the pandemic due to early and strict border checks and an effective tracing system.
More than 70% of people in Taiwan have received two vaccine doses and booster shots are currently being rolled out, with about 15% of residents having received a third shot so far.