TAIPEI – Taiwan reported the first death of a child due to Covid-19 on Tuesday (April 19), as its locally transmitted cases reached an all-time high of 1,626.
The majority of cases are reported in Northern Taiwan, specifically in New Taipei City, Taipei, Taoyuan and Keelung.
The two-year-old boy’s health condition deteriorated shortly after he began showing symptoms, said a New Taipei City hospital in a statement. He was unconscious and had a high fever when he arrived at the hospital.
Previously, there was no Covid-19-related death recorded in patients under 30 years old.
Having crossed the 1,500 daily case mark, Taiwan has reached the threshold to roll out home quarantine for confirmed cases with mild symptoms to avoid overcrowding hospitals and quarantine facilities, which will focus on those with severe symptoms, said Health Minister Chen Shih-chung on Tuesday.
Ten cities and counties started home quarantine recently, and the rest of Taiwan should follow suit within a week, he added.
This is the second and more serious wave of domestic transmissions that Taiwan has seen since the pandemic began in 2020. The surge started in late March, growing from 15 cases on March 24 and jumping to more than 1,000 a day since April 15.
The first wave lasted from last May to August, with the highest daily case count recorded as 476 in June.
In spite of the current case spike, Taiwan’s mandatory quarantine rules have relaxed for both overseas travellers and those who came in contact with confirmed cases. The quarantine period has been cut from 14 days to 10, and people do not need to quarantine in hotels if they are able to do so alone at home.
Additionally, confirmed cases who are asymptomatic can end their quarantine 10 days after they first tested positive, with no requirement to be tested negative. Those with mild symptoms are allowed to leave quarantine 10 days after they began displaying symptoms.
Testing frequency has also been cut down. Starting on Wednesday, those who have come in contact with a confirmed case will only be tested once on the day the quarantine ends, instead of at least four times in 17 days. The same applies to those who have entered Taiwan from overseas. Both groups will be given one antigen rapid test in case they develop symptoms after the end of their quarantine.
Rapid test kits are in strong demand since the local cases began surging in early April, prompting the government to plan a rationing scheme to be launched in early May, said Mr Chen at a regular briefing at the parliament on Monday.
Five test kits will be given to each resident during each collection.