TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan will not go into a Shanghai-like lockdown to control a rise in domestic COVID-19 cases as the vast majority of those infected have no symptoms or show only minor symptoms, Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Saturday, pledging to keep opening up.
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 Jan. 1 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.
Speaking to reporters, 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 re-opening” and reduce the amount of time those with COVID-19 or their contacts have to spend in quarantine.
The government has already cut to 10 days from two weeks the quarantine for all arrivals in Taiwan, and is considering further gradual reductions as it looks to re-open its borders.
About 80% of Taiwan’s 23 million people are now double vaccinated and almost 60% have 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.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)