Severe cases rise in Taiwan as DPP shuns mainland doses, mass screening
Published: Jun 02, 2021 09:13 PM
Medical workers wearing protective suits seen transferring a covid-19 patient from a quarantine centre in Taipei, island of Taiwan, on May 30. Photo: VCG

Medical workers wearing protective suits seen transferring a covid-19 patient from a quarantine centre in Taipei, island of Taiwan, on May 30. Photo: VCG

With an average of over 480 new COVID-19 cases recorded per day in the last seven days, the island of Taiwan has seen more severe cases, as experts in both the mainland and the island warned that the deadly epidemic is still rising. And with the actual number of infected people higher than the official figure, the death rate is also likely to continue to rise.  

Chen Shih-chung, head of Taiwan's epidemic command center, said on Monday and Tuesday that the "effective reproductive number" or the "Rt" of the virus has plummeted from 15 to 1.02, suggesting the epidemic is moving toward a manageable scale. 

However, Chen corrected himself on Wednesday, admitting that the epidemic is not being tamed but leveling off, after the island on the same day recorded 372 new locally transmitted cases and 177 backlog cases, bringing the total case number in the past three weeks above 7,000.

Taiwan media reported that as of Tuesday, the rate of severe cases among all age groups has increased to 16.3 percent, and the rate among those over 60 years old has increased to 30.2 percent. 

Public health experts in Taiwan said that the current mortality and severe illness rates only reflected the first wave of infections, and are expected to continue to rise in the coming days.  

"I don't feel the situation is getting any better… I was stuck at home and the infected numbers are still growing," surnamed Chou, a Taipei resident told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

"It's been three weeks since the command center declared a community-transmitted phase, but Taiwan has yet to conduct mass screening," Chou said. "We all know that the actual number of infections in Taiwan is much higher than the reported cases… The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authority should know that glorifying the recorded number is not the same as bringing the epidemic under control." 

Some Taiwan-based observers have accused the secessionist DPP authority, which has repeatedly rejected Chinese mainland vaccines for political manipulation, of being anti-science in rejecting universal screening, which may have been motivated by an intention to avoid detecting too many cases and harming public confidence in the DPP.

Peng Zhiyong, director of the intensive care unit of the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that without mass screening, there will be many patients with mild symptom who cannot be detected.

There is a period from mild to severe symptoms to death, and the vast majority of severe cases have evolved from mild cases. The increase in severe cases shows that Taiwan's health care system is under enormous strain, Peng said. 

Hou Yu-ih, mayor of New Taipei City, said on Tuesday that the city's medical resources are close to their limit. The city's health chief said that 1,330 wards are the most they can offer, with only three empty beds.  

James Che, a doctor at Taipei City Hospital, said on Facebook on Sunday that the hospital he served has a lot of unannounced deaths and the death toll will not decline in the short term.  

Taiwan's mortality has reached 1.64 percent, close to the global average of 2.1 percent, Taiwan media said. If Taiwan continues to fail to take care of critically ill patients in the next week or two, the death rate could rise, given that more than 30 percent of critically ill are elderly people in Taiwan, experts said.  

As to whether the epidemic in Taiwan has reached an inflection point, experts said the decline in the number of new cases is an important gauge of whether the epidemic is waning.