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Not God: Taiwan defends health minister amid growing COVID cases

Taiwan’s Health Minister Chen Shi-chung holds a press conference on Taiwan’s efforts to join the World Health Organization in Taipei, Taiwan, May 15, 2020. REUTERS / Ann Wang

Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang defended the island’s health minister on Tuesday amid a rare rise in internal infections on COVID-19, saying that even if he was a god reborn on earth, he could not defend against any eventuality.

Taiwan is keeping the pandemic well under control due to early and effective prevention, including largely closing its borders. Most of his 1,154 cases have so far been imported from abroad, although Taiwan has reported sporadic internal infections.

Since last month, Taiwan has registered 28 cases involving a hotel at Taoyuan Island’s main international airport outside Taipei and a crew of Taiwan’s largest carrier China Airlines Ltd (2610.TW), with some infections occurring inside the country.

Health Minister Chen Shihchung has been criticized, including by the main opposition Kuomintang, for a number of issues that could exacerbate the blast, including the lack of face masks and allowing Taiwanese and foreign pilots to mix in a hotel.

Su told reporters that despite strict government rules, not everyone sticks to the rules and it is impossible to be everywhere at once to ensure compliance is met.

“A single Chen Shi-chung, even if he were a reborn god, would not be able to do so and there is no way to see if every place has violations,” Su added.

The government is considering which procedures can be tightened, Su said, citing Monday’s decision to ban people who have been in the heavily affected India. Read more

Speaking separately, Chen thanked Su for his comments, adding that the key to fighting COVID-19 is wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and vaccinating.

“These things are very important,” Chen said.

The total number of cases in Taiwan remains extremely small compared to those in many other countries, with only 75 people being treated in hospital. Twelve deaths have been reported.

Shares of Taiwan (.TWII) have fallen since the beginning of the week, partly due to fears of an increase in cases, which fell by more than 3% on Tuesday morning.

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