Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has tested negative for COVID-19 after a worker at her residence was confirmed to be infected, her spokesman said on Thursday, May 20, as the island reported 286 new domestic cases amid a spike in infections.
Having for months been held up as an example of how to stop the virus in its tracks, Taiwan has over the past two weeks reported a spiraling number of infections in the community, with 1,572 cases.
Presidential office spokesman Xavier Chang said a person who helped look after dogs at Tsai’s residence was confirmed infected on Wednesday, May 19, and Tsai and 24 of her staff were immediately tested but found to be negative.
“The president is healthy and safe, please rest assured,” Chang added, saying her residence was being disinfected.
Tsai is an animal lover and her pets include three retired guide dogs for the blind.
Both the presidential office and Tsai’s nearby official residence are close to Taipei’s Wanhua district, one of the epicenters of the outbreak.
Thursday’s daily tally was up on the 267 infections reported on Wednesday. There was also one new death, bringing the total death toll since the pandemic began to 15.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the percentage of confirmed cases was falling among people being tested in the capital, Taipei, and neighboring New Taipei City, where the worst of the outbreak has been concentrated.
“At present, it seems like the trend is not deteriorating sharply,” he told a news briefing.
The official Central News Agency said Taiwan’s parliament would be suspended for a week starting from Saturday, May 22, though some committee sessions have already been canceled.
While ministers say the medical system overall is coping well with the rise in infections, strains are starting to show in Taipei in particular, which is appealing for retired medical staff to help.
In one piece of good news, more than 400,000 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived on Wednesday via the COVAX sharing initiative for lower income countries, adding to the 300,000 it has already received but are rapidly running out.
Taiwan has ordered more than 20 million vaccine doses, a mixture of Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca Plc shots as well as domestically developed vaccines that could be given from July.
Possibly signaling the Moderna shots could be arriving soon, Chen said the company had sent “kits” over so they could start making preparations.
Taiwan has only received AstraZeneca shots, with less than 1% of its more than 23 million people vaccinated, after being caught up in global supply problems. – Rappler.com