Taiwan may see domestic Covid-19 infections top 10,000 a day by the end of the month, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Wednesday, calling on people to exercise caution and stick to wearing face masks.
The island of 23 million people moved early to control the pandemic, adopting measures such as largely closing its borders and tracing contacts of those infected, but it has seen a rise in infections since the beginning of the year.
The 13,164 domestic cases since Jan 1 have been driven by the more infectious Omicron variant, though more than 99% have shown only mild symptoms or none at all.
Daily cases are likely to keep going up, Chen told a daily news conference at which he announced a further 2,386 domestic infections.
“Maybe by the end of the month it will surpass 10,000 cases,” he added.
“The epidemic will spread on a large scale, we hope not too fast. We call on people to be cautious when going out, wear a mask, and maintain social distance.”
Although the current outbreak is concentrated in northern Taiwan, including the capital, Taipei, cases have been detected even on remote offshore islands.
With four deaths reported since the start of the year, the government has said there is no need to panic.
About 80% of people are now double vaccinated and more than half have had a booster dose, while mask-wearing mandates continue, with masks are widely worn.
The government’s “new Taiwan model” aims to eliminate serious illness while controlling less severe cases so as to keep large parts of the economy from being shut down, as happened between May and July last year during an earlier spike.
Taiwan’s infections are relatively low compared with many other parts of the world. Since the pandemic began more than two years ago, its tally stands at about 40,000 infections and 856 deaths.