Monday, September 20, 2021

Shock new infections jolt Taiwan into scaling back New Year events

Local authorities are telling people to watch fireworks and other festivities on television at home.

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After Taiwan’s first case of the highly infectious coronavirus variant originally discovered in Britain was confirmed this week, major Taiwanese cities have now scaled back New Year’s Eve events and are telling people to watch fireworks and other festivities at home, Reuters is reporting.

The island republic has kept the pandemic well under control thanks to early and effective prevention measures, including quarantines for every arrival from abroad.

It has reported just 800 confirmed cases, including seven deaths, almost all imported.

But the government was jolted when its first domestic transmission since April was confirmed this month. And now its first case of the British variant has been confirmed, health authorities announced on Wednesday. Both people are now in isolation in hospital.

The major cities of Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, Taoyuan, Chiayi and Keelung all said late on Wednesday they would cancel public attendance at events like fireworks displays and have asked people to watch at home online and on television.

However, the Taipei city government said on Thursday people could still attend events live, the highlight of which will be a fireworks display outside Taipei 101, once briefly the world’s tallest building.

But it has capped attendance at the main viewing spot next to the city government at 40,000, half of the number it had originally planned. Attendees will have to register their personal details and wear masks.

The traditional New Year’s Day flag raising ceremony at the presidential office will also be restricted to officials and invited guests owing “to the latest pandemic situation”, it said.

Unusually low temperatures across subtropical Taiwan would probably have kept most people inside in any case, with snow reported on high mountain passes.

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