World

Taiwan cancels lantern festival over growing hospital outbreak

TAIPEI: Taiwan yesterday cancelled a major festival during the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday amid a rise in local Covid-19 cases.

Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control with 868 cases, the majority of which were imported, including seven deaths.

But it has been unnerved by a widening hospital outbreak that surfaced last week when a doctor, who was treating a Covid-19 patient returning from abroad, tested positive.

Over the last fortnight, five other doctors and nurses as well as two of their family members and a Vietnamese caregiver have contracted the virus both in and outside the hospital, bringing the cluster's total infections to nine.

The Health Ministry is planning to move more than 200 patients out of the hospital into isolation wards.

The military has also sent chemical warfare specialists to help with disinfection work at the hospital.

The Taiwan Lantern Festival, an annual celebration to mark the end of the upcoming Chinese New Year, will be cancelled, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications said.

"This is a tough decision, but pandemic prevention is our top priority," Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung told reporters.

The festival, which features oversized lanterns and fireworks displays, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Mayor Lin Chih-chien of the city of Hsinchu, where the festival was to be held, said several technology companies there had asked the government to cancel the event, citing concerns of a local outbreak curtailing production at a technology hub.

"We strongly recommend that large-scale events be cancelled," Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told a separate news conference.

"The situation is under control at the moment because the cases can be clearly traced."

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, leader Carrie Lam said the government will extend social distancing measures due to expire this week as the city remains on heightened alert after the number of infections climbed back into triple digits.

On Monday, Hong Kong reported 107 cases, the highest number in nearly a month, fuelling concern over a new wave of infections in the densely populated city where businesses are already reeling from restrictions. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD