TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An expert from the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) predicted that while the current outbreak will begin to ebb in mid-June, life in Taiwan will not fully return to relative normalcy until September.
During an interview with BaoDao Radio host Clara Chou (周玉蔻) on Thursday (May 19), CECC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) convener Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) said that in the experience of other countries since the pandemic began, COVID case trend lines have either seen a sudden peak or an "earthworm" shape with many smaller highs and lows. Lee said most Asian countries are "earthworms" in terms of their case count graphs, and although their outbreaks last longer than those of Western countries, they are less of a burden on the healthcare system.
Lee said Taiwanese have a high awareness of self-initiated epidemic prevention and that the number of people frequenting public places has dropped by 20% amid the Omicron surge. Lee predicted that this behavior could result in more of a "hill" shape than a steep "peak" on the epidemic curve.
The advantage of this is that it will preserve healthcare capacity, but it will also drag out the epidemic timeline, according to Lee.
The main purpose of epidemic prevention is to reduce the risk of severe illness and death, he said. This not only protects the public and medical institutions but also lessens the impact on the rights and interests of people who need medical treatment, he added.
As for when the current outbreak will reach its peak, Lee said there are many factors affecting the number of infections, such as people's epidemic prevention behaviors. The one thing he said he is certain of is that as soon as the public loosens epidemic prevention measures, cases will rapidly rise again.
Lee acknowledged it is possible the slow rise in confirmed cases will prolong the amount of time it takes to reach herd immunity. He pointed out that the recent outbreaks in Japan and South Korea lasted about four months, one month longer than in Europe and the U.S.
Responding to estimates that the outbreak will cool down in mid-June, Lee said he believes that month may be a "turning point" but stressed it does not mean all epidemic prevention measures can then be restored to normal living standards right away.
Lee predicted it will not be until September that life can return to the level of normality currently seen in Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.