TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Health Minister and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) on Wednesday (March 4) said that community spread of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) is inevitable in the long run.
During a question-and-answer session at the Legislative Yuan on Wednesday afternoon, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Central Standing Committee member Shen Fa-hui (沈發惠) asked Chen to provide his assessment of the future development of the epidemic. In particular, he asked him if he believed that community spread could continue to be prevented in the future.
Chen said that in the long run, community spread is inevitable because of the virus's versatility and the fact that so many people can be asymptomatic but still infectious. He said that on the whole, the government's epidemic prevention policy is in a race against time.
To avoid a community-wide outbreak of the disease, very precise epidemic prevention measures must be taken, said Chen. "We want to prevent a sudden upward spike, but we cannot dare to say that the curve will not suddenly go up again. We must make it stable and under control."
He noted that in the summer, there will be many large-scale mass gatherings. On Jan. 29, guidelines were released for large gatherings, but after the recent controversy over the Matsu pilgrimage, Chen suggested that a new version would be coming soon.
Chen stated that in the second version of the guidelines for public gatherings, he would refrain from taking a rigid approach. Instead, he said much of the decision will be made by local government departments to review its necessity and carry out a risk assessment.
The CECC head said he would set several indicators such as the availability of personnel, stability of seating, crowding, and the readiness of related contingencies. As to whether there will be a limit on the number of people at a given event, Chen said that he still suggests that the number of people at a gathering should not exceed 1,000.
Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said at a legislative session on Wednesday that public assemblies — indoor or outdoor — should be avoided if they expect to host more than 1,000 attendees. Those who take part in public gatherings should keep themselves at least one meter away from others and/or wear face masks, he added.
When Shen asked Chen whether the summer heat could help stop the spread of the virus, he said that there is no guarantee and that the government "can only hope but not count on the theory." He added that most viruses are able to survive environments with temperatures under 50 degrees Celsius, so summer is not enough to kill the coronavirus, according to Liberty Times.