Taiwan extends Level 2 COVID alert, but eases train restrictions

Taiwan will extend its current Level 2 alert against COVID-19 to at least Sept. 20 as sporadic domestically transmitted cases with unknown causes continue to be reported, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday.

Restrictions on seat arrangements on Taiwan Railways and high-speed rail trains, however, will be eased to some extent starting Tuesday, Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung (???) said at a daily CECC briefing.

The current Level-2 alert was previously set to expire on Monday after being extended for two weeks on Aug. 24.

"Taiwan is still reporting sporadic indigenous COVID-19 cases with unknown infection sources, and therefore the CECC has decided to extend the Level 2 alert," Chen said. "The decision was made after evaluations and discussions among related agencies."

"But we have decided to relax restrictions on railway transportation under the extended Level 2 alert as the local COVID-19 outbreak remains under control," Chen said.

According to the CECC, the Taiwan Railways Administration and Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. will start to sell reserved tickets for all seats on trains, but a ban on the sale of unreserved and standing room seats will be maintained.

Currently, the two railway systems are only allowed to sell a portion of available seats to ensure that passengers maintain appropriate social distancing.

Chen said that up to 80 percent of the seats on a tour bus will be available to passengers under the extended Level 2 alert, compared with the current limit of 20 passengers on tour buses.

While as many as 80 people will be permitted to gather indoors and 300 people outdoors, respectively, the CECC said, national scenic spots and amusement parks can allow admission to up to 80 percent of their capacity, an increase from the current 50 percent.

The CECC said passengers on trains and visitors of scenic areas or amusement parks will still be required to wear a face mask at all times, and no eating will be allowed on trains or tour buses.

Chen said the CECC has also decided to allow visitors to swimming pools, other sports venues and spas to use shower facilities under the extended Level 2 Alert if the operators get permission from local governments.

Basic precautions will remain in place. People will still be required to observe social distancing -- 1.5 meters apart indoors and 1 meter apart outdoors -- and wear a mask at all times outside their homes, except when they are eating, Chen said.

Wedding banquets will be allowed to have up to 80 guests indoors and up to 300 outdoors, unchanged from the previous two weeks, and newly wedded couples will still not be permitted to toast guests table by table, the CECC said.

In addition, entertainment venues, including singing and dance clubs, nightclubs, hostess bars, karaoke clubs (KTV), and bars will remain closed.

"The CECC will watch closely how domestic transmissions evolve to ease restrictions at an appropriate time," Chen said.

On Monday, Taiwan on reported 16 new COVID-19 cases -- nine transmitted domestically and seven contracted overseas -- and zero deaths from the disease.

The new cases bring the total in Taiwan to 16,035, of which 14,378 are domestic infections reported since May 15, when the country first recorded more than 100 COVID-19 cases in a single day.

To date, 837 people have died of COVID-19 in Taiwan, including 825 since May 15.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel