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Asia Minute: Taiwan is facing a reversal of fortune when it comes to the coronavirus

Virus Outbreak Taiwan 041322
Chiang Ying-ying/AP
People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus wait to cross the street in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, April 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

Masks may be optional on U.S. airlines and elsewhere, but COVID cases are rising in many parts of the world. And in a few places, that even includes record numbers.

Taiwan has had a very successful track record against COVID-19 for more than two years. But those numbers have started to change.

On Tuesday, locally-transmitted new cases rose to more than 1,600 — a new daily record.

The island also recorded the first death of a child because of the virus.

Previously, the fewer than 900 Taiwanese who died from COVID were all age 30 or above.

The government is now asking those who test positive and have only mild symptoms to isolate at home to avoid overcrowding of hospitals and government quarantine facilities.

For most of the pandemic, Taiwan maintained some of the lowest infection rates in the world — using strict border controls and tracing programs — but without resorting to lockdowns.

The omicron variant has changed the numbers and exposed some gaps in those who are fully vaccinated.

Nearly 80% of the overall population has had two shots — but that rate is about 72% for those older than 75. And only a little more than half the population has had a booster shot.

One developing shortage: rapid test kits.

The Health Minister has told parliament the government wants to produce 31 million additional test kits in Taiwan — and import another 100 million.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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