TAIPEI - Taiwan's government on Tuesday tightened rules on public gatherings after reporting six new domestic COVID-19 cases with no clear source of infection, a rare rise on the island which has kept the pandemic well under control.
Taiwan largely closed its borders early on in the pandemic and has a robust contact tracing and quarantine system, meaning its low case numbers - 1,210 infections to date including 12 deaths - have allowed life to carry on more or less as normal.
Already dealing with an outbreak amongst pilots of Taiwan's largest carrier China Airlines and at a hotel where some of them stayed, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters they had confirmed six new cases with no clear source of infection.
Five of these are in the northeastern county of Yilan and one in New Taipei, which surrounds the capital Taipei. None have a recent history of overseas travel, Chen added.
"We hope that this does not spread," he said, calling on people to wear masks, wash their hands and ensure social distancing while the government tracks down those who had been in contact with the infected to quarantine and test them.
Effective immediately until June 8, all outdoor activities of more than 500 people and inside activities of 100 or more should be cancelled, Chen said. Food and drink will also be banned on trains.
Similar restrictions have been put in place before, though Taiwan has never gone into a total lockdown. More than 90% of COVID-19 cases have been imported from abroad.
The rise in domestic infections, reported in local media before being officially announced, helped drag down the stock market .TWII , which ended off 3.8% on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Editing by Gabriela Baczynska) ((email@example.com;))