Taipei, June 9 (CNA) Taiwan reported 72,967 new COVID-19 cases — 72,921 domestically transmitted and 46 imported infections — and 211 deaths from the disease on Thursday, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC).
The 211 deaths were a single-day high, surpassing the 159 recorded Wednesday, CECC data showed.
Here are some of the new developments regarding the COVID-19 situation around Taiwan on Thursday:
The 1922 hotline has no authority to provide ambulance services
The CECC’s toll-free 1922 Hotline does not have the authority to dispatch ambulances because its operation has been outsourced to a contractor to provide epidemic notification and consulting services, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said at the daily news briefing Thursday.
Chen was responding to criticism of the hotline’s slow response by the main opposition Kuomintang legislative caucus, which said the CECC needs to review its operation and take administrative and legal responsibility for the hotline’s failure to respond quickly in emergency situations.
The ineffective response came to light after the father of a 2-year-old boy, nicknamed En En (恩恩), who died of COVID-19 said the hotline took too long to respond to his call for help and manage an ambulance to take his son to hospital for emergency medical treatment in April.
En En’s father said it took 143 minutes on April 14 to contact the New Taipei City Department of Health to find an ambulance to take his son to hospital.
Acknowledging the limitations of the hotline, Chen said the 1922 hotline’s main duties include consultation services about disease prevention and control, quarantine, vaccination and information concerning local and overseas epidemics, but it does not have the authority to dispatch ambulances.
Taiwan can pick Moderna’s next-generation COVID-19 vaccine
Taiwan’s purchasing contract with Moderna means the country can choose to take delivery of the company’s next-generation COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, as it still has not received 10 million Moderna vaccine doses it ordered for this year, according to Chen.
Chen made the remarks as Moderna announced promising results from trials of its latest bivalent vaccine, a redesigned version of its COVID-19 booster shot, saying it produced a better immune response against the Omicron variant.
Taiwan may allow tour groups to travel overseas in September
Taiwan is considering allowing travel agencies to organize group tours to other countries beginning September, Chen said.
“Of course, it is possible,” he replied when asked about the possibility of allowing Taiwanese tour groups to travel overseas in September, with Japan set to start allowing tourists on package tours from some countries to enter from June 10, including Taiwan.
Asked about the CECC’s plan to cancel quarantine entirely for airline crew members under a “0+7” formula, Chen said it has yet to be finalized.
Currently, crew members on long-haul flights who received their booster shot at least two weeks prior to their assignment are subject to three days of quarantine upon returning to Taiwan, followed by four days of self-health management.
Crew members on short-haul flights who received their boosters two weeks prior to their assignment are required to monitor their health for five days after returning.
● Taiwan to cut COVID-19 quarantine for arrivals to 3 days
● Taiwan relaxes quarantine rules for crew members of long-haul flights
COVID-19 cases fall after Dragon Boat Festival holiday
Large gatherings of people during the June 3-5 Dragon Boat Festival holiday weekend had only a small impact on the COVID-19 situation as daily case numbers in the past four days following the festival continued to decline, Chen said.
The seven-day moving average of domestic COVID-19 cases in Taiwan has fallen over the past two weeks from 80,000 to around 70,000 as the nation’s average COVID-19 infection rate has reached 11.4 percent, according to Chen.
In the past week, daily domestic case numbers fell to 53,023 on Monday before rebounding to more than 80,000 Tuesday and Wednesday and then dropping to 72,967 on Thursday, indicating a downward trend, Chen said.
(By Chen Chieh-ling, Chang Ming-hsuan, Shen Pei-yao and Evelyn Kao)