Taiwan, which has had remarkable success in containing the coronavirus, raised restrictions for its main city to their highest level since the start of the pandemic on Saturday, after reporting a daily record of 180 new locally transmitted infections.
Taiwan’s current outbreak — its worst yet by far — began in late April with a cluster in airline workers. Saturday’s caseload represented more than half of the 344 locally transmitted cases that the self-governing island has recorded during the entire pandemic.
The Taiwanese premier, Su Tseng-chang, and other officials told reporters on Saturday that masks and other medical supplies to fight the outbreak were plentiful. Mr. Su urged Taiwanese to be “obedient, helpful and protect yourselves, your families, all of society and our country.”
The government raised the restrictions in the city of Taipei to Level 3 out of 4, still short of a full lockdown. Even so, the announcements sent a shiver of anxiety through Taipei, and some residents filed into supermarkets to stock up on food, toilet paper and other essentials.
“I felt a bit panicky in recent days because of the surge of cases,” said Chen Mei-ling, 58, a retired high school teacher who stood in a long line at a Taipei supermarket. “It seems that the pandemic will last for a while and we can’t expect a virus-free environment in the near future.”
The restrictions in Taipei and adjoining New Taipei include a ban on indoor gatherings of more than five people and require the use of protective masks outdoors. Many public venues across the island will be closed, except for essential facilities like hospitals and police stations.
Taiwan has for decades been at loggerheads with China, which considers the island democracy to be a breakaway region that must accept eventual reunification. The Taiwanese government took swift measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from China early last year, even before the Chinese authorities confirmed that it was highly infectious.
In other news:
Japan said that as of Sunday, three more prefectures — Hokkaido, Okayama and Hiroshima — would be included in a state of emergency declaration that was already in force in Tokyo and five other prefectures, and which is scheduled to last until at least the end of May. The designation, under which people are asked to stay home except to run essential errands, was implemented to control a fourth wave of coronavirus infections and has cast further doubt on Japan’s ability to safely host the Tokyo Summer Olympics in July. Only about three percent of Japan’s 126 million people have received a first shot of a coronavirus vaccine. Taro Kono, the cabinet minister in charge of vaccinations, this week blamed the slow pace in part on the country’s strict drug approval system.
China’s sports administration is putting an end to attempts to climb Mount Everest from its north face this spring, citing concern about the coronavirus, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday. The agency said there was a need to “ensure absolutely no missteps,” apparently reflecting worries that climbers in Nepal, where infections are surging, could bring the virus to the top of the world’s highest mountain from the other side. The announcement came a few days after the authorities in Tibet, a region of China, said they would enforce a “zero contact strategy” to ensure there were no transmissions from climbers on the Nepal side of the mountain, which is called Chomolungma in Tibetan. Xinhua said 21 Chinese climbers had previously been given permission to try for the peak this season.