Taipei closes entertainment venues as virus outbreak spreads

·2-min read
Taiwan has been hailed as a global leader in containing the Covid-19 pandemic, but a recent outbreak has forced the reimposition of restrictions

Taiwan's capital on Friday announced an indefinite closure of entertainment venues in the wake of a widening outbreak of local coronavirus infections.

The self-ruled island has been hailed as a global leader in containing the Covid-19 pandemic, with just 1,290 confirmed cases, 12 deaths and minimal social distancing needed once the initial outbreak was quelled.

But an outbreak first detected among pilots has spread into the community and forced the reimposition of restrictions in a place that has so far weathered the pandemic unscathed.

The Taipei city government's decision, effective from Saturday, covers bars, dance clubs, karaoke lounges, nightclubs, saunas and Internet cafes as well as hostess clubs and teahouses.

Municipal facilities including libraries and sports centres will also be closed.

The move came after Taiwan reported 29 locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases on Friday -- a single-day high -- including 16 cases linked to a cluster involving hostess teahouses in the city.

The source of seven of the local infections was still pending investigation, health authorities said.

"The outbreak continues to widen so we have to upgrade the pandemic prevention measures," mayor Ko Wen-je told reporters.

"But we urge residents not to panic... We had kept the pandemic under control effectively in the past year but we may have become too relaxed. We need to be vigilant again and we can still bring it under control."

Taiwan raised the coronavirus alert level and banned large gatherings earlier this week after the latest cluster spread in Taipei and other cities.

In northern Taoyuan, where there was a cluster involving staff at an airline and an airport hotel, the city government has also decided to shut down entertainment venues from Saturday to June 8.

A similar cluster centred around a hospital led to the suspension of large-scale Lantern Festival events during the Lunar New year in February. That outbreak was quickly brought under control.

Last year Taiwan recorded 253 straight days without any local infections.

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