TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Winter coats got their first outing in Taipei and its environs over the weekend, but there will be warmer weather around most of the country from Monday (Oct. 18) as the prevailing northeasterly winds die down.
Temperatures as low as 18 degrees Celsius were recorded in Shenkeng, north of Taipei, early Sunday evening (Oct. 17), along with brief showers and heavier rain in Keelung and some parts of Yilan County. Central and south Taiwan, however, stayed relatively balmy, with lows of 22 and highs of 30 C.
Technically, it is still autumn in Taiwan, with winter officially starting on Dec. 21 and coming to a close on March 20, 2022. However, the cooler weather is a change from the summer heat that has lasted up until now.
With the northeasterly winds set to die out on Monday morning, temperatures are likely to bounce back for a while. The Central Weather Bureau (CWB) predicts rain in east Taiwan, but mostly cloudy and sunny skies elsewhere until Thursday at least.
Meteorologist Wu Der-rong (吳德榮) believes a fresh weather front will affect Taiwan starting Friday (Oct. 22), but doesn't expect temperatures to budge by much.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced on Sunday (Oct. 17) that Level 2 restrictions will be extended until Nov. 1, but beginning Oct. 19 people taking pictures indoors or out, or taking part in outdoor sports, can go maskless — but should carry a mask.
CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said that Taiwan’s COVID situation has been stable, with only three local cases reported since Oct. 1. Although Level 2 restrictions will remain in place, he said that certain mask policies will be relaxed.
People should still wear a mask at all times when outside, but those who engage in outdoor sports, take personal or group photos indoors or outdoors, or work in open areas such as fields, fish farms, mountain forests, and the beach for the agriculture, forestry, fishery, and animal husbandry industries.
Despite this new policy, Chen said that people who meet these stipulations should still carry a mask on them. This is in case they experience COVID symptoms or if social distancing cannot be maintained.
For indoor gatherings, including conferences, exhibitions, and wedding banquets, the maximum number of people is 80. However, if there is a social distance of at least 1.5 meters between each person, there can be more than 80 people, reporters cited Chen as saying.
Meanwhile, the maximum capacity for outdoor gatherings is 300 people, he added. Chen said that venues such as karaoke bars, dance halls, nightclubs, clubs, bars, and "barbershops" offering sexual services will stay closed for now.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Four people died and two are still missing in a river accident in the Hubao Pond area of New Taipei’s Shuangxi District.
A total of 31 people went on a hiking trip to the Hubao Pond historic trail on Saturday (Oct. 16). The group was returning when it rained heavily.
As they were crossing an upstream tributary of the Beishi River, six of them, including two adults and four children, were swept away by the river's currents. Rescuers found the bodies of two adults and two children along the river on Sunday, the report said. The search for the other two missing children is ongoing.
Taipei Deputy Mayor Tsai Ping-kun (蔡炳坤) said that all six of the missing individuals were Taipei citizens. Taipei Department of Social Welfare said it would give NT$20,000 (US$690) to the family of each deceased victim.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp. (MVC) announced on Thursday (Oct. 14) that it had applied to the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Eswatini for emergency use authorization (EUA) of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Eswatini, a landlocked country in South Africa, is Taiwan’s only ally in Africa. The two countries signed a bilateral agreement on medical cooperation in 2007, and since 2009 Taipei Medical University has been carrying out medical exchange activities for Taiwan.
The report added that medical exchanges have been one of the cornerstones supporting ties between the two countries. Eswatini congratulated Taiwan on its successful development of the Medigen COVID-19 vaccine and said it was an important milestone in fighting the disease on Twitter on Oct. 10, Taiwan’s National Day.
As of Tuesday (Oct. 12), Eswatini, with an population of 1.2 million, has had a total of 46,300 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 1,230 deaths, the report said. King Mswati III, the country’s leader, and his seven wives contracted the disease in January this year, and Taipei Medical University dispatched a team of five medical personnel to treat them.
Later, Mswati III thanked Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for the antiviral drugs that improved his condition. The application for an EUA in Eswatini comes after the company’s application for an EUA in South America's Paraguay, the report said.
MVC said that it is conducting a Phrase III clinical trial in Paraguay, which involves 1,000 people, and will obtain data for interim analysis by the end of this year.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan is about to publish preliminary findings for a number of clinical trials to determine the efficacy of mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines, with the pairing of AstraZeneca (AZ) and Moderna showing promising results.
The National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) has completed an experiment in which 200 participants received an AZ and a Moderna shot, for 28 days. Antibody tests for those involved indicated greater potency in fighting the virus than that of two AZ doses.
The level of protection was similar to that from the mix of AZ and Pfizer-BioNTech (BNT) vaccines, according to Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳), an infectious disease expert and specialist advisory panel convener at the Central Epidemic Command Center.
Other ongoing trials at the hospital include Moderna-Medigen, Medigen-BNT, and AZ-BNT pairings, reported Liberty Times. Participants for the Moderna-Medigen group will have their blood tested for neutralizing antibody levels on Day 1, 14, and 28, as well as three and six months after their vaccinations, with preliminary results expected by the end of this month.
Meanwhile, the Chang Gung Memorial Hospital is probing the effectiveness of AZ-Moderna and AZ-Medigen inoculations. The Taoyuan General Hospital has also embarked on a trial of 200 people who will get two AZ jabs and one Medigen booster shot.
Though on a small scale, the experiments will help better understand to what extent the combination of different vaccines, including the homegrown brand of Medigen, can generate an immune response against COVD. This will allow for more efficient immunization using available vaccines, Liberty Times quoted NTUH physician Lee Ping-ing (李秉穎) as saying.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A woman is being investigated for arson after it was found that a mosquito coil she discarded was found at the suspected point of origin of a fire that killed 46 and injured 41 in Kaohsiung's notorious "ghost building."
At around 2:40 a.m. on Thursday (Oct. 14), a fire broke out in the Cheng Chung Cheng (城中城) Building in Kaohsiung's Yancheng District, a deteriorating structure dubbed locally as "Kaohsiung's No. 1 ghost building." The Kaohsiung City Fire Department battled the blaze for five hours, finally extinguishing it at 7 a.m., but not before 46 had perished and 41 had been injured, making it the second-most deadly fire in a single building — after the Weierkang Club fire in Taichung, which killed 64, in 1995.
Based on a preliminary assessment, the fire investigator believes the point of origin of the blaze is a small apartment suite behind an antique shop on the first floor. Surveillance camera footage showed a number of individuals walking in and out of the room shortly before the fire started.
Inside the room, investigators found gas cylinders for a stove among other flammable items, but an object that was of particular interest was a charred incense burner. The room was occupied by a tenant surnamed Kuo (郭) and after being questioned by police, he said that his girlfriend, a woman surnamed Huang (黃), had joined him for drinks that night.
Kuo and Huang reportedly had an argument that evening, prompting Kuo to angrily storm out of the building. Huang remained inside and continued to drink alcohol with another male companion, who she later escorted outside.
Huang told prosecutors that she then returned to the room and continued to drink alone. During this time, she admitted to lighting a sandalwood incense coil to repel mosquitoes but denied intentionally committing arson.
However, she gave prosecutors three contradicting accounts about what happened next. First, she claimed that she tossed the sandalwood embers in a trash can.
Later, she recanted her original statement and said that she had taken the embers away to dispose of them. She then gave a third version of events, claiming that she forgot what she had done with the embers.
The conflicting accounts about her actions before the fire started have led prosecutors to suspect that she is not being truthful about the incident. Prosecutors plan to question the woman further.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan's Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) on Wednesday (Oct. 13) announced that when a ban on the entry of migrant workers is lifted, those who are fully vaccinated will be given priority.
During a meeting of the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee in the Legislative Yuan on Wednesday, many legislators asked Hsu that amid the growing labor shortage, when would the entry ban on migrant workers be lifted. Hsu revealed that she is currently working on a plan to allow migrant workers to enter the country.
Hsu emphasized that the requirements for migrant workers to enter the country will be stricter than before the pandemic and will be "stricter than ordinary foreigners," reported UDN. She explained that an example of stricter measures for migrant workers over other foreign arrivals is the requirement to have "one person per room" before boarding the plane and entering the country.
She stated that after the supporting facilities are prepared, a proposal will be submitted to the Central Epidemic Command Center. According to Hsu, the Ministry of Labor (MOL) is coordinating with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Ministry of Health and Welfare to develop a plan to allow workers to enter the country based on both the needs of companies and epidemic prevention policies.
As part of the plan, epidemic prevention measures will start from the workers' country of origin. For example, migrant workers who are fully vaccinated will be given priority for entry.
In addition, the workers must submit proof of the negative results of a PCR test before departure and will still be required to undergo 14 days of quarantine and seven days of self-health monitoring before the entry process into the country can be completed and they can begin work.
Due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Indonesia, Taiwan imposed a ban on the entry of migrant workers from the country in December last year. When Taiwan began to experience its own outbreak, it imposed a blanket ban on all migrant workers from entering the country on May 19.
However, strict Level 3 epidemic control measures brought the outbreak under control, with the county seeing cases drop to the single digits for over two months now. In October, Taiwan had reported zero local cases for eight consecutive days.
According to MOL statistics, Taiwan's migrant worker population surpassed 700,000 in September 2018. After barring entry for Indonesian workers for nearly a year and all other migrant workers for four and a half months, the population dropped to 699,154 in August.
On Wednesday, Hsu indicated that Indonesia will be among the countries from which Taiwan is planning to open its borders to migrant workers.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said on Wednesday (Oct. 13) that Taiwan needs to administer at least 4.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to reach the goal of achieving a 70% first-dose vaccination rate and 30% second-dose vaccination rate by the end of October.
Noting that vaccination is key to epidemic control and returning to normalcy, Chen said during Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing that reaching the goal in time is a tall order and will pose a challenge to medical personnel.
When asked about whether there are stocks of overdue COVID-19 vaccines in the country, the CECC head said the latest overdue vaccine lot was the Moderna vaccine that expired on Oct. 3, according to the report. However, Chen said, no overdue vaccine doses have been administered to people.
The next in line to expire are 4,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which would go bad on Oct. 30 if left unused. All other vaccine doses have longer validity periods, he added.
When asked whether 70% of Taiwanese adults having had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine means there will be a relaxation of restrictions or reopening of the country, Chen said the standards for lowering the alert level have not been determined.
Regarding predictions that COVID-19 would evolve into another flu after three years, Chen declined to give an opinion.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A massive blaze that started in an apartment in a mixed-use building in Kaohsiung early Thursday morning (Oct. 14) has killed eight people and injured 40 people.
At 2 a.m. on Thursday, a fire broke out in the Chengzhongcheng (城中城) Building in Kaohsiung's Yancheng District, a deteriorating structure dubbed locally as "Kaohsiung's No. 1 ghost building." The Kaohsiung City Fire Department was able to extinguish the fire by 7 a.m., with 31 people hospitalized.
According to the fire department, a fire was reported at an aging structure at No. 31 Fubei Road at 2:54 a.m. The mixed residential commercial building is 13 stories tall and was built over 40 years ago.
Two underground floors are currently not in use, while the first through fifth floors are abandoned. There are approximately 120 households residing on the 7th through 11th floors.
When the blaze broke out, the fire department dispatched 75 vehicles and 159 firefighters to the building. At the scene, firefighters found that the fire was burning intensely in a pile of debris on the first floor.
Firefighters immediately began to attack the blaze from the front ground level while at the same time using ladder trucks to spray water from above and rescue trapped residents. Other crews sprayed water from the side as water tenders were deployed to ensure a steady supply of water.
However, the fire continued to rage due to a large amount of debris and the dilapidated state of the building. Several floors suffered severe damage and firefighters struggled to evacuate all residents.
Firefighters were not able to bring the blaze under control until 4:51 a.m. and finally were able to extinguish it at 7:17 a.m. Eight residents have died, while 40 people were rescued from the flames and dispatched to local hospitals.
The fire department urged the public to not allow too much rubbish to accumulate in and around their residences and to keep stairwells unobstructed. They also recommend carefully following fire and electricity safety guidelines, installing smoke detectors, and calling 119 in the event of a fire.
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Surgeries underwent by a convenience clerk to repair a detached retina suffered during a savage assault by a man diagnosed with schizophrenia appear to have been fully successful.
On Sept. 26, a 50-year-old man surnamed Yang (楊) brutally assaulted the 29-year-old clerk surnamed Pan (潘) after she asked him to pull up his face mask while entering a convenience store in Pingtung County's Gaoshu Township. Pan was reported to have suffered a detached retina in one eye, lacerations to her other eye, and a broken nose, with doctors fearing she would completely lose vision in the more seriously damaged eye.
Pan has since undergone two operations at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. Doctors say that her recovery is going well, and she has not experienced any complications from two procedures on her eyes, .
Over the past two days, she has been undergoing pre-discharge checkups. If her condition continues to improve, doctors say that she can be discharged from the hospital this week.
In response to Pan's injuries, the hospital immediately activated a team of specialists in plastic surgery, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, nursing care, social services, and psychiatry for care and treatment. On the day of the incident, an ophthalmologist first sutured a conjunctival laceration to her eye.
The operation went smoothly, and there were reportedly no complications of a retinal detachment. On Oct. 2, a medical team composed of an ENT surgeon and a plastic surgeon reconstructed the inner wall of the orbital cavity.
In order to avoid scars from external surgeries and shorten the postoperative recovery time, the medical team used minimally invasive surgery through nasal endoscopy. During the procedure, artificial bone was used to successfully restore the surrounding structures of the eyeball.
On Oct. 6, Pingtung Magistrate Pan Meng-an (潘孟安) announced that he had visited Pan after the operations and said that she was able to open her eyes and see him. She expressed her gratitude to the public for all of their best wishes and was optimistic about being discharged from the hospital soon.
According to the hospital, Pan is recovering well and will likely be discharged later this week. Doctors say that her vision has been fully restored but that follow-up examinations will still be needed.
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