TAIPEI (Reuters) -Taiwan reported another rise in domestic COVID-19 cases on Saturday, but the health minister said the trend remained stable with new infections concentrated in the northern part of the island in and around Taipei.
After months of keeping the pandemic under control, Taiwan is dealing with a surge in domestic infections, and the whole island is under a heightened state of alert with people asked to stay at home and many venues shut.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung announced 321 new domestic cases, plus 400 infections over the past six days whose positive tests were not included in previous reports due to a delay following a spike in cases.
Chen said cases spiked on Monday and the trend remained "stable".
"There's no explosion in the pandemic development," he said, adding cases were concentrated in the few hot spots in the capital and its neighbouring city New Taipei, though cases continue to be reported in other parts of the island.
"I hope everyone stays calm and makes active preparations in the war against the pandemic," Chen said.
He reported two new deaths, bringing the total to 17 since the pandemic began. Taiwan has reported an accumulated 3,862 infections, the majority of which are now domestic cases.
People showing no or only light symptoms, which account for many of the new cases, are being told to stay at home or go to dedicated quarantine hotels.
The government is also urging its people not to spread fake news and rumours about the outbreak, saying they should only rely on official reports.
Deputy Minister of the Interior Chen Tsung-yen on Saturday accused China of spreading fake news about the COVID-19 situation on the island.
Taiwan, calling this weekend critical to breaking the chain of transmission, has urged people to stay at home. Many appeared to be doing that, with the streets around central Taipei unusually quiet.
The health ministry brought out its social media dog mascot, a Shiba Inu called Zongchai, to suggest songs about being alone people could sing at home to keep themselves entertained, like Taiwanese rocker Wu Bai's hit "Lonely Tree, Lonely Bird".
"At the weekend, don't go out unless absolutely necessary," the ministry said, showing Zongchai wearing glasses in front of a microphone.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Yimou Lee; Editing by Stephen Coates and William Mallard)