With cases stabilising, Taiwan to partially ease COVID-19 curbs
TAIPEI (Reuters) - Taiwan will partially ease its COVID-19 curbs next week but will officially maintain its existing alert level until later in the month, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Thursday, as its domestic outbreak continues to stabilise.
Taiwan raised its alert level in May following a spike in infections, limiting personal gatherings, closing entertainment venues, parks and movie theatres and restricting restaurants to take-out service.
Those measures will be partially eased on July 13, but the Level 3 alert level will stay in place until July 26, Chen said.
Chen announced 18 new domestic cases on Thursday, the lowest daily number since the current outbreak started in May.
"We will extend the level 3 alert, but will moderately relax it," he told reporters.
Restaurants will be allowed to open with appropriate controls like space between diners. Parks, movie theatres and gyms will also be re-opened, though swimming pools will remain closed, according to government provided details.
Curbs that will remain include no wedding banquets, no indoor family gatherings of more than five people and restricted numbers of people allowed in supermarkets and traditional wet markets. Wearing face masks both inside and outside will remain mandatory.
The real aim, though, is to lift the existing restrictions by July 26, Chen added.
"Let's work hard for this," he said.
Taiwan's borders, however, remain effectively closed, apart from for citizens and residents, with tough quarantine requirements in place.
Separately, 1.13 million donated AstraZeneca Plc vaccine doses from Japan arrived in Taiwan on Thursday, further bolstering its vaccination programme.
Japan donated its first batch, 1.24 million doses, last month. Around one-tenth of Taiwan's 23.5 million people have received at least one of the two-dose vaccine regimen.
Taiwan has reported 15,149 infections since the pandemic began, including 718 deaths.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jane Wardell and Kim Coghill)
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