Taiwanese President apologizes for surge in COVID-19 deaths

Eduardo Baptista, South China Morning Post

Posted at Jun 13 2021 12:54 PM | Updated as of Jun 13 2021 02:00 PM

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen has apologised for the recent surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.

On Saturday, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre reported 251 new Covid-19 cases and 26 deaths, a slight decrease from the previous day’s tally of 287 cases and 28 deaths.

On the same day, Tsai published a short video on Twitter, apologising to all those affected by the outbreak.

“Each and every Taiwanese who has been infected, or even lost their life, is part of our greater national community,” she said.

“As your president, I want to take this opportunity to convey my deepest sorrow and apologies.”

Tsai’s statement comes as Taiwan marks one month since the start of its worst Covid-19 outbreak. Starting on May 10, Covid-19 infections jumped from one to three-digit figures within a matter of days.

Most of the 411 total deaths from Covid-19 on the island were caused by the ongoing outbreak.

Before early May, Taiwan’s daily Covid-19 cases had rarely exceeded single digits. The island’s test and trace system, combined with its avoidance of lockdowns, had earned it international praise as a model to be followed.

But a slow vaccine roll-out and new Covid-19 variants have combined to hand Tsai her toughest challenge since being re-elected in January 2020.

Tsai said on Saturday that Taiwan’s present outbreak was due to a “particularly difficult” variant and that the government would do everything possible to root out asymptomatic infections in high-risk areas.

However, local government officials in Miaoli county, located in the centre of the island, have been criticised by human rights groups for imposing discriminatory Covid-19 rules against migrant workers.

Four electronic companies have reported clusters of Covid-19 cases among their workers in Miaoli, many of them low-paid migrants from Southeast Asia.

The local authorities this week imposed a stay indoors order on all migrant workers unless they were travelling to work.

But the order did not apply to others in the area, even though Taiwanese workers at those factories have also been infected by the virus.

Besides ramping up testing and curbs on movement, Taipei is looking to tackle the outbreak by increasing its limited vaccine stock, which was recently boosted by donations from the US and Japan.

Taiwanese vaccine developers including Medigen are seeking an emergency use authorisation that would allow their Covid-19 vaccine to be rolled out in the island before the conclusion of phase 3 clinical trials.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told the island’s legislature on Friday that the government was in talks with US pharmaceutical company Moderna about producing its vaccines under licence.

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