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Singapore physician calls for 'full lockdown' in Taiwan

Lim Wooi Tee says 'Taiwan is more vulnerable than any other country in the world'

Chen Ning-kuan, and Lim Wooi Tee. (YouTube, 50 Era Money screenshot)

Chen Ning-kuan, and Lim Wooi Tee. (YouTube, 50 Era Money screenshot)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Singapore-based physician is calling for a "full lockdown" in Taiwan to deal with the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

Over the weekend, Lim Wooi Tee (林韋地) — a specialist in epidemic prevention, originally from Malaysia but currently based in Singapore — posted on Facebook calling for a complete lockdown. On Friday (May 28), Lim called for a "full lockdown" in Taiwan because, in his opinion, the medical system, particularly in Taipei and New Taipei is overloaded with COVID cases.

In an interview with Chen Ning-kuan (陳凝觀) on the talk show "50 Era Money " (年代向錢看) that evening, Lim said the explosion in cases caught Taiwan off guard. Lim blamed Taiwan's government for squandering over a year and not properly preparing for a major outbreak.

As a new variant has arrived, Lim said, "Taiwan is more vulnerable than any other country in the world." He added that Taiwan is particularly vulnerable because it has an aging population of 23 million that has not been vaccinated and has no antibodies to the virus.

Lim said he believes a lack of widespread testing means there has been a significant underestimation of confirmed cases in Taiwan and the real number of infections may be much higher. He pointed out that last week, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) retroactively added hundreds of cases on a daily basis, making it impossible to judge the status of the epidemic.

Given that only 500,000 people have been tested, many more people could be walking around in the community spreading the disease.

He said Taiwan also has a big problem with the medical information provided by confirmed COVID patients. They often need medical monitoring even if they recover in two weeks, said Lim.

Many elderly patients have been found dead after entering epidemic prevention hotels or quarantine centers. Lim believes this means that risk assessment and medical monitoring is incomplete. "The CECC does not think this is a problem, which is the most terrifying aspect."

Lim said the most important thing at this stage is to enforce controls on movement and "lock down the whole island." Secondly, he said it is vital that patients are separated from each other.

In Singapore, he said they placed people with mild cases in exhibition halls and gymnasiums, where medical staff could monitor them. He argued that this would be safer than leaving them unattended in epidemic prevention hotels.

The doctor suggested that certain hospitals could be fully dedicated to treating COVID patients. By having only coronavirus patients, they would not have any other distractions and could dedicate their best doctors to combating the disease, said Lim.

On Saturday (May 29), he listed three reasons why Taiwan should impose a lockdown:

  1. It will establish a consensus the epidemic situation is very serious
  2. "Stop time" to calm the public and give the government time to establish a strategy
  3. Set priorities, with epidemic containment placed ahead of vaccination

During a press conference on Sunday (May 30), CECC head Chen Shih-chung said, "There are all kinds of criticisms, both domestically and abroad. Therefore, we will look at the suggestions and decide if any of them can be implemented."

Although some cities and counties have been running simulations of a Level 4 alert, Chen stressed there are no immediate plans to implement a full lockdown in Taiwan. He pointed to a recent decrease in daily case counts as a sign that current Level 3 restrictions are working.