No god: Taiwan defends health minister in COVID cases

© Reuters. Taiwan Health Minister Chen Shih-chung holds a press conference on Taiwan’s efforts to join the World Health Organization

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang on Tuesday defended the island’s health minister amid a rare spike in domestic COVID-19 infections, saying that even if he were a god born again on earth, he could not face all contingencies protect.

Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control through early and effective prevention, including largely closing its borders. Most of its 1,145 cases to date have been imported from abroad, although Taiwan has reported sporadic domestic infections. As of last month, Taiwan has faced a group of 26 infections previously linked to a hotel at the island’s main international airport in Taoyuan, outside Taipei, affecting pilots, hotel workers and their families.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung has been criticized by the main opposition party, the Kuomintang, among others, for a number of issues that could have exacerbated the outbreak, including the failure to wear face masks and the ability for Taiwanese and foreign pilots to unwind in one Mix hotel.

Su told reporters that despite strict government steps, including recording the names of people entering public venues to help trace contacts, not everyone was obeying the rules and it was impossible to be everywhere at the same time to make sure the regulations are observed.

“A single Chen Shih-chung, even if he were a born again god, would not be able to do this, and there is no way to see if every place has no violations,” Su added.

The government is examining what procedures can be tightened, said Su, referring to Monday’s decision to ban the entry of people who were in a badly affected India.

Taiwan’s total number of cases remains extremely small compared to many other countries. Only 75 people are treated in the hospital. There were 12 reported deaths.

Taiwanese stocks have fainted since the beginning of the week, in part due to domestic case concerns, and fell more than 3% on Tuesday morning.

The hotel at the center of the outbreak was evacuated last week and is undergoing a thorough cleaning while those living there were moved to centralized quarantine centers for testing.

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