Taiwan recorded 180 local COVID-19 cases on Friday as more stringent social distancing rules were implemented.
The alert level was increased to 3, meaning fewer than five people could gather indoors, and fewer than 10 outdoors.
All public places were closed and communities facing outbreaks were in lockdown. All entertainment venues, exhibitions, competition and educational sites were also shut. Temples were barred from accepting offerings and conducting other religious activities, and churches ordered to practice strict social distancing.
Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said at a press conference on Saturday morning that more stringent measures had to be implemented to curb the serious surge in cases. Despite the restrictions, workplaces and schools were still open, and the high-school public exam would continue to be held, he said.
Of the 180 local cases, 89 were from Taipei, including 43 from Wanhua district, health minister Chen Shih-chung said.
The positive rate of community testing results in New Taipei city and Wanhua district have risen from 0.5% in the past to between 3% and 10% now. The rates were dangerously high, Chen said.
Taipei and New Taipei cities would be on level 3 alert until May 28. Alert levels of neighboring areas of Keelung, Yilan and Taoyuan remained at level 2. Residents living between areas of alert levels 2 and 3 should avoid unnecessary travel, Chen said.
Asked if a citywide lockdown may be implemented, Chen said it was a measure under alert level 4, and would only be imposed if there was a running average of more than 100 cases for 14 consecutive days.
Asked if a lockdown was not implemented out of concerns for the economy, Chen said stronger measures may not stop infections and would cause fatigue among residents.
Under alert level 3, people must wear masks outdoors. Violators would be fined between NT$3,000 and NT$15,000 (US$107 to US$536). Those who violated social gathering bans would be fined between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000.
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