TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — If current COVID-19 trends do not change, the compulsory wearing of masks outside will end in early December, Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) chief Victor Wang (王必勝) said Wednesday (Nov. 23).
The daily number of local COVID infections has been falling, with Wednesday’s total of 17,841 amounting to a decline of 21% from the same day last week.
Appearing on a radio show Wednesday, Wang said that if the trend continued, the mask mandate would end for people outside in early December, Radio Taiwan International (RTI) reported.
The situation at that time would form the basis for deciding when a second stage would start, with only specific locations such as hospitals, public transportation and crowded indoor events still requiring the wearing of masks. Because winter weather is likely to bring more infections and ailments, the beginning of the second stage might not happen before the end of the year, the report said.
In addition to the decline of the pandemic, the CECC also needed to consider the capability of the health system to respond to a possible rebound of infections once the mask mandate was lifted, Wang said. He also said the scale of other respiratory infections had to be taken into account before Taiwan could end the mandate.
However, the CECC chief warned that even if the mandate was ended, the wearing of masks would still be compulsory at popular mass events such as New Year parties and fireworks.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan will not give in to Chinese intimidation, the country’s representative to Guam Paul Yin-Lien Chen (陳盈連) said in a Guam Daily Post editorial.
Taiwan is a free and democratic country that is not subordinate to China, Chen said. “Only Taiwan’s democratically elected government has the right to represent the 23 million people of Taiwan in the international arena,” he said.
The representative accused the U.N. of bending under pressure from China and misinterpreting Resolution 2758 “to deny Taiwanese people opportunities to participate in the United Nations.” This violates the principle of universality in the U.N. Charter, he pointed out.
Chen called Taiwan “a responsible member of the international community” that has contributed greatly to the world, including working toward U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The Chinese Communist Party sees this as a sign to force Taiwan into following the so-called “one China” principle, demonstrating that it has no say in the health and welfare of Taiwanese citizens, he added.
The representative said Taiwan is thankful for global supporters assisting in its bid to participate in the U.N. system and for sharing their concern about China’s military threats. Taiwan urges the U.N. “to respect the will of the Taiwanese people that want to participate in the U.N. system,” he said.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan Army’s 269 Mechanized Brigade carried out a nighttime joint combat exercise on the grounds of the military’s joint training base in Pingtung on Tuesday (Nov. 22).
The live-fire drill kicked off with troops firing off flares, per Military News Agency. They then launched Javelin missiles at simulated enemy armored vehicles while receiving artillery support, Liberty Times reported.
Soldiers practiced taking interactive cover and later carried out an assault on simulated enemy positions.
The Javelin is an anti-armor missile developed by the U.S. that employs fire-and-forget technology, allowing the operator to fire and immediately move to another position, according to Military.com. The missile’s effective range is 2,500 meters, while its maximum range is 4,750 meters.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The COVID-19 death rate has been trending to a level on par with the influenza mortality rate in Taiwan, partly due to widespread vaccination and the use of antiviral drugs, National Taiwan University public health professor Tony Chen (陳秀熙) said on a live-streaming session on YouTube on Wednesday (Nov. 23).
He noted that during the outbreak of the Alpha variant, the mortality rates hovered between 3% and 7%, which were much higher than the 0.34% influenza mortality rate. However, during the Omicron variant outbreak, the COVID-19 death rate went below 0.3%.
The public health expert pointed out that many patients infected with the Omicron variant died not solely because of the virus, but because of complications, including immunodeficiency and other serious comorbidities.
With regard to Taiwan’s COVID-19 patients not being able to vote this weekend, Chen said the country’s overall immune protection from COVID-19 is about 60% and that voting at the polling stations is an organized and controlled activity.
With measures like wearing masks and social distancing in place, it should be safe for COVID-19 patients to go to polling places to vote in the upcoming local elections on Saturday, Chen claimed.
He thinks that the coexistence of democratic elections, civic participation, and disease prevention is an important milestone in Taiwan’s stride toward returning to normality.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A woman in Taichung City has been accused of trying to buy votes in the Nov. 26 local elections by offering the meat of the protected Taiwan serow, reports said Wednesday (Nov. 23).
The animal, also known as the Formosan serow or goat antelope, is a small bovid listed as a rare and valuable species. As a result, the suspect will not only be charged under the Election and Recall Act for vote-buying, but also under the Wildlife Conservation Act.
The local election candidate, surnamed Kuan (管), reportedly hired someone last September to hunt serows. The meat was then packaged with persimmons and NT$100 (US$3.20) bills to share with villagers in the Heping District of Taichung City.
Prosecutors raided Kuan’s home, campaign office, and six other locations on Tuesday (Nov. 22) searching for evidence of vote-buying. While the meat had already been eaten, they said they still found evidence pointing to Kuan’s illegal activities.
Nine people were questioned, with Kuan released on bail of NT$100,000. The maximum penalty for vote-buying was 10 years in prison, with voters selling their vote facing a maximum jail term of three years.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) announced on Monday (Nov. 21) that the eastern line’s Yuli-Fuli railway section, which was severely damaged by strong earthquakes on Sept. 18, will reopen to traffic on Dec. 28, 20 days earlier than originally planned.
TRA said in a press release on Monday (Nov. 21) that Minister of Transportation and Communications Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) had directed that the reopening of the Yuli-Fuli section between Hualien and Taitung be moved up from Jan. 18 next year to Dec. 28 this year to open in time for the New Year’s Day holiday.
According to TRA, at the early stage of the project to restore the damaged section, the project did not progress well due to continuous earthquakes and heavy rains, but the project is now ahead of schedule.
TRA said that ticket booking for trains from Taipei to Taitung after Dec. 28 will become available from Nov. 30, and that the New Year's Day holiday ticket booking service will open on Dec. 2.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As Taiwan’s local elections approach, a Hualien County police officer was heard broadcasting messages at a cemetery, urging the deceased to tell their offspring to not engage in election bribery and other illegal activities.
In a TikTok video posted on Nov. 11 that has since gone viral, a police vehicle from the Fenglin Precinct can be heard broadcasting an anti-bribery message as it drove slowly past a cemetery. The message began by addressing the “mothers, uncles, fathers, elders, and grandmothers” in the local Indigenous language.
“The nine-in-one election is on the 26th. Tell your children and grandchildren, don’t bribe, don’t buy ballots, (don’t engage in) illegal activities,” the unidentified officer said. “If you have time, appear in your children’s dream (and tell them) not to break laws!”
According to a statement made by the Fenglin Precinct police on Nov. 12, the video had been taken on the afternoon of Nov. 7. The police had been broadcasting anti-bribery messages in local neighborhoods to raise public awareness about the issue, and when the officer in the video drove by the cemetery, he decided to improvise and film his humorous performance to share with friends and family.
However, after the video was uploaded to social media, it became viral and was well-received by netizens. The precinct said it hoped that the incident will teach the public to not engage in bribery and help protect electoral fairness.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The agricultural authorities plan to roll out a medical insurance scheme next year for sheltered strays to improve the chances of them finding a new home.
Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said on Tuesday (Nov. 22) the government is working on an incentive, slated to be implemented in the first half of 2023, to encourage pet adoption. Taiwan currently has 8,800 canines and felines at public shelters, wrote Agriharvest.
In addition to the proposed one-year insurance coverage for strays at public shelters, the COA is also drafting rules that regulate pet-related businesses, from food to funeral arrangements.
This involves the establishment of guidelines for drugs used for animals, allowing for better treatment of pets and also serving to encourage the research and development of relevant medicines, Chen added.
Apart from the enhancement of a nationwide pet care system, efforts have also been undertaken at local levels to improve the welfare of furry companions. Measures include free or subsidized neutering, microchip implants, and inoculations.
Tainan offers a free yearly health checkup for adopted cats and dogs, while New Taipei provides classes for pet grooming and pet meal preparation. Taipei already introduced an insurance scheme in 2019 and last month launched a voucher campaign to incentivize buying insurance for pets.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A motorcyclist was killed on Monday (Nov. 21) when his motorbike suddenly collided at a high rate of speed with a taxi without its lights on along Expressway 64 in New Taipei City.
At around 10:57 p.m. on Monday, a 27-year-old man surnamed Chi (紀) was riding an Aprilia RS 660 motorcycle with a red license plate and a sales price of over NT$500,000, reported NowNews. When he was passing through the Zhonghe section of Expressway 64 in New Taipei City's Zhonghe District, he came upon a diversified taxi (多元計程車) while speeding in the left lane.
However, the taxi did not have its lights on and Chi did not appear to see it as he did not decelerate as his motorcycle struck the back of the vehicle at the 25.7-kilometer mark. Chi was immediately sent flying and suffered life-threatening injuries as he landed on the freeway.
His motorcycle rolled several times on the expressway, while the backend of the taxi was heavily damaged. Paramedics who arrived on the scene found that Chi had lost all vital signs and rushed him to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The driver of the taxi was a 37-year-old man surnamed Chen (陳) and his 46-year-old passenger surnamed Liu (劉) suffered multiple abrasions and contusions. All three were taken to Shuang-Ho Hospital, where doctors were unable to resuscitate Chi and later pronounced him dead.
The accident also caused the entire section of Zhonghe Road to be closed, causing gridlock for nearly two kilometers. After reviewing footage taken from surveillance cameras along the road, police found that the taxi was driving with its headlights off.
Police stated that Chen would face a fine of between NT$3,000 and NT$6,000 for violating Article 33 of the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act (道路交通管理處罰條例) for "not using lights in accordance with regulations,".
The cause of the accident and culpability are still under investigation.
When questioned by the media the next day, the father of the deceased acknowledged to the media that his son had been speeding, but if the taxi's headlights had been turned on, the tail lights would be on, "and my son could see them, but he didn't turn on the headlights at all, my son couldn't see it at all, and the car was painted black." The driver of the taxi issued the following statement through a friend:
"Hello members of the media, I am the owner of the car that was hit last night. I was driving on the 64 Expressway at a normal speed yesterday. There was a passenger in the car at the time and I was suddenly hit hard. Up to now, I still have lingering fears. The police are currently investigating the cause of the accident, and I will cooperate with relevant procedures to clarify the responsibility. In addition to expressing condolences to the family of the deceased, I also hope that everyone in the media will respect personal privacy, because I am not and do not want to be a public figure, and I do not want my relatives and friends around me to be disturbed. Thank you very much."
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A woman who is running for Taipei City Council was suddenly attacked in broad daylight on Wednesday morning (Nov. 23) while campaigning, suffering a concussion, and has been hospitalized due to severe bleeding.
That morning, Lin Chieh-li (林婕麗), a New Party (NP) candidate for Taipei's Fourth District, stood at the intersection in front of the Dazhi Police Station in Taipei's Zhongshan District to canvass for votes. According to an NP statement, Lin had been standing in the area for less than five minutes when an unidentified man rushed over and attacked her.
The assailant caught Lin off guard, causing serious injury. Lin was rushed to nearby MacKay Memorial Hospital for emergency treatment.
After receiving emergency treatment, although Lin's wound had been sutured, doctors listed her in serious condition. Not only was she diagnosed with a concussion, but she also suffered from bleeding from the right side of her head.
In addition, her right scapula was fractured and she had no mobility in her arm. She is currently hospitalized for diagnosis and treatment.
According to a preliminary police investigation, a 25-year-old man surnamed Chang (張) got into an argument with his girlfriend the previous evening. After a long night of eating and drinking in the Dazhi neighborhood of Zhongshan District, he found that his wallet was missing early the next morning.
When Chang went down to the Dazhi Police Station at 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning to report the loss, he claimed that because he was in a bad mood and that the candidate calling for votes on the roadside was"very noisy", he struck Lin, causing her to suffer lacerations to her head, police officers at the station arrested Chang on the spot.
Chang is reportedly cooperating with the police investigation at the Dazhi Police Station and the details of the case are yet to be clarified.
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