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Taiwan raises epidemic response level to highest amid COVID-19 concerns

Taiwan raises epidemic response level to highest amid COVID-19 concerns

Mask-clad commuters get off a train at a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stop in Taipei following the Lunar New Year holidays on Jan 30, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Sam Yeh)

TAIPEI: Taiwan on Thursday (Feb 27) raised its epidemic response level to the highest as it readied a US$2 billion package to cushion the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on its export-reliant economy.

The move allows the government to tackle the virus outbreak in a much faster manner with more resources across various ministries, the official Central News Agency reported.

READ: Taiwan records its first COVID-19 death as global toll passes 1,600

READ: Shincheonji - The secretive sect in South Korea's COVID-19 outbreak

Premier Su Tseng-chang announced the decision in a cabinet meeting on Thursday, citing sporadic cases of community transmission on the island, which has seen 32 cases of the coronavirus and one death.

It came days after Taiwan's parliament approved a T$60 billion (US$2 billion) package to soften the impact from the virus on its economy, which includes loans for small businesses, subsidies for hard-hit tour agencies and even vouchers to spend on food in Taiwan's famous night markets.

Explore: Real-time interactive map of all the confirmed cases reported around the world

READ: More COVID-19 new infections outside China than inside: WHO

"As the international epidemic outbreak gets more serious day by day, Taiwan needs to enhance its defence against the virus," Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said while overseeing troops tasked with disinfection on Thursday morning.

"We will integrate all government resources to fight against the threats of the coronavirus."

The island has largely suspended travel and tourism links with China to curb its spread and advised citizens against visiting South Korea.

This week Taiwan passed a bill to penalise people who violate government-mandated home quarantine orders, with those in breach possibly facing a T$2 million fine or two years in jail.

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Source: Reuters/ga

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