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Taiwan raises COVID-19 alert level as 267 new cases reported

Taiwan raises COVID-19 alert level as 267 new cases reported

A woman wears a protective face mask while crossing a street in Wanhua district following a surge of COVID-19 infections in Taipei, Taiwan, May 19, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Ann Wang)

TAIPEI: Taiwan raised its COVID-19 alert level for the whole island on Wednesday (May 19) as domestic cases continued to rise, with another 267 new cases.

The capital Taipei is already under a higher alert level, meaning restrictions on gatherings and the closure of some non-essential shops and entertainment venues.

The government also said Taiwan will get 400,000 more AstraZeneca COVID-19 doses from the COVAX global sharing programme, as it faces a dwindling supply of shots.

Taiwan has reported almost 1,000 new infections during the past week or so, leading to new curbs in the capital, Taipei, and shocking a population that had become accustomed to life carrying on almost normally.

But its stock of vaccines is rapidly falling. It has only received a little more than 300,000 to date, all from AstraZeneca. At least two-thirds of those have been distributed.

READ: COVID-19 vaccines that are made in Taiwan could be ready in July, says minister

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told reporters that the roughly 400,000 additional doses would arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday afternoon from Amsterdam.

The shots are coming from COVAX, which distributes vaccines to lower-income countries, Lo said.

Taiwan has said it expected to get more than 1 million AstraZeneca shots via COVAX.

Taiwan has ordered 20 million doses, mostly from AstraZeneca but also from Moderna, though global shortages have curtailed supplies.

READ: Taiwan to help allies buy vaccines, but not from China

In a statement on Wednesday, Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control said after a virtual workshop on vaccines on Tuesday with the top US, British, Japanese and Australian diplomats in Taipei that vaccines must be fairly distributed.

"Fair access to effective vaccines is the ultimate means to curb the global COVID-19 pandemic. We look forward to more effective and sufficient vaccine development and marketing, and call on all countries to work together to end the COVID-19 pandemic," it said.

Taiwan is mobilising its diplomats to try to speed up access to more vaccines, and is in talks with the United States for a share of the COVID-19 shots President Joe Biden plans to send abroad.

Brent Christensen, the de facto US ambassador to Taiwan, said at the same event that "talking about COVID-19 vaccines can be a sensitive subject", according to a copy of his remarks published by his office.

"We recognise that each country and region is at different stages in their COVID-19 vaccination programmes," the remarks said. "Unfortunately, many still face difficulties gaining access to vaccines."

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Source: Reuters/dv

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