TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — After two Askey Computer Corp. employees dined without registering any contact information at a Tasty restaurant in Taoyuan, leading to a large cluster of COVID-19 cases, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) asked the public to make sure to register for contact tracing.
CECC Commander Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said at a routine press conference on Saturday (Jan. 22) that one of the biggest lessons learned in Taiwan’s recent COVID outbreak is the importance of maintaining the contact tracing system. He announced a new policy requiring restaurant operators to strictly enforce contact tracing registration for all patrons; those who do not and show no improvement after a warning will not be allowed to provide dine-in service.
“From this incident related to Tasty, we learned that if we all follow contact tracing registration properly, investigation of related footprints would be much quicker, and there would not be another case like missing these two individuals and letting such a big cluster form,” Chen said.
Per ETToday, there was a 12-day gap between the two Askey Computer employees’ Tasty visit (Jan. 9) and their positive test result (Jan. 21). The two had dined without making a reservation or having registered their contact tracing, and did not see related news reports about the Tasty cluster afterward.
When the SMS contact tracing system was first launched in 2021 during the height of Taiwan’s local outbreak, the number of SMS entries between June and September was between 520 million and 560 million a month, according to Chen. By October, the outbreak had been curbed, leaving around 490 million entries; many people began to argue that the contact tracing system was wasting resources around then, and called for the abolishment of the system.
By December, the number of entries had plummeted to around 290 million; as of Friday (Jan. 21), the number of entries registered in January reached only 190 million. “We have emphasized that the contact tracing system is an important part of our anti-pandemic response plan; when things happen, we must improvise quickly, and the system must be able to catch up,” said Chen.
When asked if the CECC will fine businesses for not properly enforcing contact tracing registration in the past months, Chen said, “I don’t know whom to punish; with all the anti-pandemic measures, people tend to relax and become less alert when things get better. Yet when cases rise again, people start blaming this and that — none of this is a good sign.” He added that the only way to go is for everyone to remain vigilant and work together.