Taiwan to shut borders Wednesday after new COVID surge

Taiwan to shut borders Wednesday after new COVID surge

Taiwan is to close its borders for a month from Wednesday after recording an unprecedented flare-up of COVID-19 cases last week.

Customs will be closed from midnight on May 19 to June 18, the government said Monday. Passengers without a valid Taiwan residence permit will be denied entry, except for emergencies or out of humanitarian considerations. Transit journeys will also be suspended.

The measures came as Taiwan’s health authorities recorded a record-breaking 333 locally transmitted COVID-19 cases on Monday. The majority were concentrated in the island’s capital region, with 158 diagnosed in Taipei and 148 in the enveloping area of New Taipei City, said Health Minister Chen Shih-chung on Monday.

It was necessary to consider how to take measures that could maximize the containment efforts with minimum economic and social disruption, Chen said.

While authorities had earlier decided to suspend classes for junior high senior high students in Taipei and New Taipei City, the mayors of both areas agreed to close all schools for 11 days starting Tuesday.

The recent surge in local transmissions has raised questions about what went wrong on the self-ruled island, which has been widely acclaimed for its apparent success in fending off the coronavirus, in spite of its proximity to and close trade and travel links with China, where the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The island of about 24 million people saw local cases jump from 29 last Friday to 333 on Monday, still relatively low by global comparisons.

Health authorities earlier raised the alert level for Taipei and New Taipei City to level three of four, which will remain in effect for two weeks. The alert requires people to wear a mask outdoors, and limits indoor events to five people and outdoor assemblies to 10 people.

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