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Premier Su: Time to shift COVID-19 response from defense to offense

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Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Thursday that Taiwan has successfully contained the spread of COVID-19, and the time has come to shift the response posture from defense to offense, specifically through relief and stimulus measures. He instructed ministries and agencies to review all tasks and responsibilities under their jurisdictions and actively prepare resources ahead of time. There can be no slacking off, he emphasized.

This past week Taiwan saw 10 new coronavirus cases, five of which came from a naval ship cluster and the remaining five from abroad. As of Thursday, the nation recorded no new local infections for the 24th consecutive day, while 80 percent of COVID-19 patients have been released from isolation. These achievements were won after a hard-fought campaign, he said. The "Taiwan model" for combating COVID-19, lauded and touted around the world, is also the outcome of concerted efforts between the people and the government, the premier said.

Premier Su also announced Monday that the nation's relief package has been expanded to cover two additional vulnerable groups: workers not enrolled in social insurance schemes, and workers engaged in agricultural and fishery production. This measure provides a one-time cash subsidy of NT$10,000 (US$334) to protect 1.7 million hard-working people. The government will continue endeavoring to extend the umbrella of protection to cover all people in all circumstances, he added.

In the two short weeks following the amendment of the Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens, more than NT$36 billion (US$1.2 billion) in cash assistance payments have been disbursed to nearly 2 million people, including low and lower-middle-income households, self-employed workers, taxi drivers and tour bus drivers, Premier Su said.

With stricter controls now guarding the nation's borders, the government will begin easing restrictions in local communities. Ministries and agencies will map out plans to gradually lift restrictions on activities and venues in accordance with Central Epidemic Command Center guidelines. For instance, business owners can reopen restaurants, performing art and exhibition venues, and outdoor event spaces provided they self-regulate and adopt disease prevention measures. Starting Friday, professional baseball games will also offer admittance to 1,000 fans per game, which will not only encourage outdoor activity but also get the sports industry back on track.

Despite the enormous toll of the virus on the global economy, Taiwan still achieved impressive economic growth of 1.54 percent in the first quarter, which put it first among the Four Asian Tigers. By May 20, the amount of investments pledged by companies under a government campaign to boost investment in Taiwan is expected to break the NT$1 trillion (US$33.4 billion) mark. The premier urged ministries and agencies to continue their work to stabilize and boost the economy.

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