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Taiwan's COVID cases could peak in early June: CECC

Daily cases expected to drop significantly by July but could rise again due to emboldened public

People wait in line at a free screening station in Kaohsiung's Lingya District on May 24. 

People wait in line at a free screening station in Kaohsiung's Lingya District on May 24.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) predicts that COVID cases will peak in early June and drop off significantly by July, but new surges are possible in the near term.

Previously, the Ministry of Health and Welfare had estimated Taiwan would reach a peak of 100,000 COVID cases per day by mid-May. However, at a press conference on Tuesday (May 24), CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said daily local cases are ranging between 60,000 and 80,000, as the public has a higher awareness of self-initiated epidemic prevention than neighboring countries, causing case numbers to stabilize.

Chen said that due to the convenience of mass transit, the infection rates of various counties and cities are expected to gradually converge. He said that the CECC had originally estimated the number of daily cases would rise to 160,000 by the end of May, though his "personal estimate was a little lower."

However, Chen pointed out that cases have not continued a steady rise but have ebbed and flowed from day to day. Based on this trend, Chen said it appears there will not be a rapid increase in the short term, but the overall number of cases will continue to climb.

A member of the media asked whether the failure to reach 100,000 daily cases had to do with observance of epidemic prevention, such as relying less on public transportation and restaurants proactively halting indoor dining. Chen replied that according to recent monitoring, the flow of crowds is about 75% of that seen during the Level 3 epidemic alert last summer.

Chen explained that even though there are no mandatory crowd restrictions in place, the public is highly aware of self-initiated epidemic prevention, and the mask rule has not been relaxed. He added that even though home isolation and quarantines have been relaxed, this has not significantly affected the domestic outbreak.

He suggested that it may be related to proactive rapid screening by the public, perhaps "even too proactive," indicating that everyone attaches great importance to epidemic prevention. In addition, Chen noted that Taiwan's vaccination rate is higher than that of neighboring countries, which is also contributing to containing new cases to a certain range.

CECC Spokesman Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said it is estimated that this wave will peak at some point in late May or early June. However, Chuang stressed that infection levels will continue to fluctuate, daily cases will not hit zero immediately, and the end of June will not be when the epidemic bottoms out.

Chuang said that the number of new daily cases in July may drop to a new low for the outbreak but warned that the epidemic could heat up again as people resume activities in the near future.