Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday called on the public to “stay vigilant and prudent,” but added that there is “no need to be afraid” given a surge in domestic cases of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Saturday reported 82 new local infections, a high for this year.
“The Omicron variant spreads very fast, so all of a sudden, most of the cases reported around the world are Omicron cases,” Su said during a visit to the CECC yesterday. “Its rapid spread is the variant’s characteristic, but most infected people have mild symptoms, or even no symptoms, which is also the case in Taiwan.”
Photo courtesy of the Executive Yuan via CNA
“We urge everyone to stay vigilant and prudent, but there is no need to be afraid,” he said.
While the government is doing its best to slow down the spread of the Omicron variant, Su said that people should know that scientific evidence suggests that vaccines boost protection against COVID-19 and reduce the symptoms of those who become infected.
Su urged those who are not fully vaccinated or are eligible for a booster shot to make an appointment as soon as possible so that they can increase protection for themselves, their families and society as a whole.
On Friday, Su said that while the government is doing its best to achieve “zero COVID” conditions, it does not exclude the possibility that Taiwan might have learn to “live with COVID-19.”
Separartely, former vice president Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), a public health specialist, wrote on Facebook: “We shouldn’t be afraid of living with the virus, and we must speed up in increasing full vaccination coverage.”
Before vaccines and antiviral drugs were developed, people could only rely on non-pharmaceutical interventions to keep the virus from spreading in communities, as the fatality rate of the disease was also higher, Chen said, adding that “zero COVID” was initially the goal.
As Omicron is more transmissible, but produces milder symptoms or no symptoms, getting vaccinated can induce the body’s humoral and cell-mediated immune responses, and increase protection from infection, severe illness, hospitalization or death, he said.
It is difficult for the world to eliminate such highly transmissible variants, so a “zero COVID” approach is impractical and people should be prepared to “live with” the virus, he said.
Rapid tests, vaccines and oral antivirals have been developed, and the goal for this phase of prevention should be arriving more rapidly at full vaccination coverage, he added.
In related news, Taiwan has purchased up to 10,000 courses of molnupiravir, an oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 developed by US drugmaker Merck & Co.
While the CECC had said that the drugs would at the earliest arrive after the Lunar New Year holiday, sources yesterday said that the first delivery could arrive this morning.
Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, said only that the center is keeping in close touch with the manufactuer regarding the matter.
Additional reporting by Lo Chi
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