Taiwan expects daily domestic Covid-19 infections to top 1,000 a day by the end of the month, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Tuesday, calling on people not to panic about a wave that is causing few serious cases.
Taiwan has been a model for how to control the pandemic. It moved early and effectively with such measures as largely closing its borders and implementing highly efficient contact tracing.
But since the beginning of this year the island of 23 million people has recorded some 4,000 domestic infections, driven by the more infectious Omicron variant, though more than 99% of those have involved only minor symptoms or none at all.
Speaking on a Taiwanese radio station, Chen said daily cases could exceed 1,000 by the end of the April.
“I think that, looking at the present trends, by the end of April local cases will almost certainly top 1,000,” he said, when asked whether that daily number would be reached next month.
High-risk areas are concentrated in northern Taiwan, including the capital, Taipei, but Chen said he thought the situation was much more controllable in other areas.
The government has been talking about the “new Taiwan model”, trying to eliminate serious illness while controlling less severe cases and not shutting down large parts of the economy, as happened between May and July last year during an earlier spike.
Some 80% of people are now double vaccinated and more than half have had a booster, while mask-wearing mandates remain in place. Masks are widely worn.
Only two people have died of Covid in Taiwan this year, both elderly and one totally unvaccinated, and the health system is holding up well, thanks to the rarity of serious cases.
“There’s no need to panic, absolutely none,” Chen said, adding daily numbers were not rapidly increasing.
Taiwan’s infection numbers remain comparatively low compared with many other parts of the world.
Since the pandemic began more than two years ago, the island has recorded around 28,000 infections and 854 deaths.