TAIPEI, Taiwan — Closed schools and restaurants offering takeout only. Lines around the block at testing sites. Politicians on television urging the public to stay calm.
If the scenes around Taiwan this week have a distinctly early pandemic feel, it is because the coronavirus is only now washing up on the island’s shores in force. A crush of new infections has brought a swift end to the Covid-free normality that residents had been enjoying for more than a year.
By shutting its borders early and requiring two-week quarantines of nearly everyone who arrives from overseas, Taiwan had been managing to keep life on the island mostly unfettered. But all that changed after enough infections slipped past those high walls to cause community outbreaks.
For most of the past week, the government has ordered residents to stay home whenever possible and to wear masks outdoors, though it has not declared a total lockdown. Local authorities are ramping up rapid testing, though some health experts worry that too few tests are being done to stay ahead of the virus’s spread.
1,290 Covid-19 cases and 12 deaths during the entire pandemic.
Adding to the concern: Only around 1 percent of the island’s 23.5 million residents have been vaccinated against the virus so far.
happily shielded from its worst ravages.
Eight months passed last year without a single case of community transmission until an infection in December snapped the streak. Even after that, local infections cropped up only sporadically for months.
Then the tide shifted — gradually, then suddenly.
On April 14, the government began allowing crew members for Taiwanese airlines to quarantine at home for just three days after arriving on long-haul flights, down from the previous requirement of five days.