Singapore and Taiwan were hailed as COVID-19 success stories. Now they're seeing a spike in case numbers

Taiwan and Singapore have been considered model countries for controlling the pandemic, but both governments are now tightening restrictions to fight a recent surge in cases.

A woman checks an almost empty shelf as residents rushed to buy grocery essentials inside a supermarket in Taipei, Taiwan, 17 May 2021.

A woman checks an almost empty shelf as residents rushed to buy grocery essentials inside a supermarket in Taipei, Taiwan, 17 May 2021. Source: AAP

Singapore will close schools from Wednesday as authorities warned new coronavirus strains such as the one first detected in India were affecting more children.

Taiwan also shut schools in the capital Taipei to control an outbreak, and the island banned all foreigners from entry or transit for a month unless they had a residency card.

Both governments have been tightening restrictions to fight a recent rise in cases, after remaining relatively unscathed during the pandemic compared with the rest of the world.

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Authorities in Singapore said on Sunday that primary and secondary schools as well as junior colleges would shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday until the end of the school term on May 28.

The announcement came after Singapore confirmed 38 locally transmitted coronavirus cases, the highest daily count in eight months. Some of the cases involved children linked to a cluster at a tuition centre.

An additional 21 local transmissions were reported on Monday.

Tables at a Singapore food court are cordoned off as no dining-in is allowed during the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Tables at a Singapore food court are cordoned off as no dining-in is allowed during the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Source: AAP


Indian variant 'affects children more'

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, citing a conversation he had with the ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak, said Sunday that the B.1.617 strain, first detected in India, "appears to affect children more".

"Some of these mutations are much more virulent and they seem to attack the younger children," Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said.

"This is an area of concern for all of us," he said, adding that none of the infected children was seriously ill.

The government is "working out the plans" to vaccinate students under the age of 16, Dr Chan said in a Facebook post.

Only one per cent of Taiwanese have been vaccinated

Taiwan's capital Taipei and adjacent New Taipei City announced on Monday that schools would suspend classes from Tuesday until 28 May.

Taiwan has been a model of how to control the pandemic but over the past week has reported more than 700 domestic cases, out of a total of 2,017 infections recorded in total, triggering panic buying at supermarkets as the government tightened curbs.

Authorities on Monday also said all foreigners would be barred from entering or transiting Taiwan for the next month unless they had a residency card.

The surge of coronavirus infections in Taiwan has led to its stock of 300,000 vaccine doses rapidly running out, with only about 1 per cent of its 23 million people vaccinated.

Military officers sanitise COVID-19 testing centers and workers as Taiwan raised its coronavirus alert levels. Taipei, Taiwan, 16 May 2021.
Military officers sanitise COVID-19 testing centers and workers as Taiwan raised its coronavirus alert levels. Taipei, Taiwan, 16 May 2021. Source: AAP


The GAVI Vaccine Alliance, which with the World Health Organization is jointly running the COVAX scheme to provide doses to countries that may have difficulties obtaining them, said more AstraZeneca vaccines were coming to Taiwan.

Taiwan has ordered 20 million vaccine doses, mostly from AstraZeneca but also from Moderna, though global shortages have curtailed supplies.

Hong Kong travel bubble delayed, again

In the latest round of restrictions, Singapore has limited public gatherings to two, banned restaurant dine-ins and closed gyms.

Last year, the coronavirus surged through crowded dormitories housing low-paid foreign workers, infecting tens of thousands.

But by global standards, Singapore's overall outbreak has been mild - officials in the city of 5.7 million have reported more than 61,000 cases so far and 31 deaths since the start of the pandemic.



But the latest spike has hit a quarantine-free travel bubble with Hong Kong, which was due to begin 26 May after an earlier failed attempt.

A Hong Kong government spokesman said that "in view of the recent COVID-19 epidemic situation in Singapore", the two governments had decided to delay the bubble.




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4 min read
Published 18 May 2021 at 11:58am
Source: AFP,Reuters,SBS