Speaking at Thursday's weekly Cabinet meeting after a briefing by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) on the COVID-19 outbreak and Taiwan's response, Premier Su Tseng-chang said that in spite of the now 10 consecutive days of zero new locally transmitted cases, the situation remains challenging. Taiwan cannot afford to let down its guard and must continue to fight as one against the coronavirus. As for the infections aboard Taiwan's Goodwill Fleet, the premier said the situation was regrettable and promised a thorough investigation to restore public peace of mind.
The Goodwill Fleet's mission is to protect and defend the people of Taiwan through long-term patrols, said Premier Su. While the fleet enjoys broad popular support, the very surprising COVID-19 cluster outbreak aboard the Panshi fast combat support ship caused considerable consternation. The premier said that he has already called for an immediate clarification of on-board disease prevention work, including both the scope and all steps taken. Deficiencies will be taken under consideration and quickly addressed in order that lessons learned from this incident can be used to craft seamless and error-free procedures for the future.
At nearly every meeting of the Cabinet, ministers and agencies heads are personally reminded to adjust and apply all the powers and resources of their portfolios to effectively control the COVID-19 outbreak, Premier Su said, and especially to study past cases from other nations that have experienced large-scale mass outbreaks of communicable diseases. The premier directed those present to confirm that high-risk areas under their control have been identified, required work and actions have been taken, complementary prevention measures reviewed and standard operating procedures developed. He also ordered an inventory be made of all units responsible for crowded facilities or otherwise risky conditions, such as long-term care institutions under the MOHW; Ministry of Justice detention centers; Veterans Affairs Council homes and service centers for elderly veterans; all Ministry of National Defense military units, operational bases and officer academies; and boarding schools operated by the Ministry of Education.
As for economic relief, government agencies are now offering an array of rescue loans, with the number of approved applicants leaping from more than 2,300 to over 5,000. The total amount of approved loans also jumped from NT$25 billion (US$830.6 million) to more than NT$80 billion (US$2.7 billion), while the average length of time for approval stands at only 4.8 days. Cash assistance payments will also be remitted to more than 900,000 people this week, including low and lower-middle-income households, disadvantaged groups, taxi drivers, tour bus drivers, self-employed workers, and employees of hard-hit companies. Starting this month, the central bank's lowered interest rates will benefit more than 3 million borrowers who have mortgages, credit loans or auto loans. Beginning next month, water and electricity bill discounts will be provided to nearly 300,000 businesses in the initial stage.