TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan’s health minister said on Thursday it was still too early to talk about needing to raise the alert level and go into a full lockdown, but the spike in COVID-19 infections on island gave him no reason for optimism.
Taiwan has been model for how to control the pandemic, but its increase in domestic infections, though not exploding, has alarmed the government, which has limited gatherings and closed entertainment venues.
The government is also dealing with delays in reporting test results, which has led to it revising its total numbers on a daily basis.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, speaking at his daily news briefing, said he was concerned at a rise in younger people getting infected, who may not be taking curbs as seriously and meeting when they shouldn’t be.
“There’s no cause for optimism,” he said of the trend in infections.
However, he said it was still “too early” to talk about going into Taiwan’s highest alert level, which would be an effective lockdown, something the government has not had to do since the pandemic began.
Next weekend marks the traditional Dragon Boat festival, when people often travel to see family members in other parts of Taiwan, and Chen said people should not be travelling if there was no urgent need.
“I hope that everyone does not go back to their hometowns if they do not need to,” he said.
Taiwan reported on Thursday 583 domestic COVID-19 infections, including 219 cases added to recent days’ totals as it reflects delays in reporting positive tests.
The figure was an increase from 549 reported on Wednesday, which also included cases from previous days.
Most of the infections have been concentrated in Taipei and its neighbouring city, but Chen said they were concerned about an outbreak in a factory dormitory in Miaoli in northern Taiwan.
The government has only vaccinated some 3% of Taiwan’s 23.5 million people, though has millions more shots on order whose delivery has been delayed by global supply shortages.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)