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Taiwan's COVID-19 cases grow exponentially as people stay home

Taiwanese health workers disinfect a street in Taipei, Taiwan, as the country faces a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. File Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA-EFE
Taiwanese health workers disinfect a street in Taipei, Taiwan, as the country faces a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases. File Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA-EFE

May 17 (UPI) -- Taiwan reported 335 cases of the novel coronavirus Monday, setting a new record, as vaccination rates remained low and residents were ordered to stay at home to prevent the spread of the disease.

Taiwanese health authorities said Monday nearly all the cases, or 333 in total, were the result of local transmission. Only two cases were identified as overseas arrivals, Apple Daily in Taiwan reported.

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The island nation's cumulative caseload remains low because of an early response in 2020. Cases are climbing, however. The total stands at 2,017, with 700 of them reported in the past week, according to the report.

The number of reported cases escalated over the weekend. On Friday, 29 new cases were reported, followed by 180 cases Saturday and 206 cases Sunday.

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Vaccine rollout has been slow on the island. The government has contracted to receive 10 million AstraZeneca vaccines, but also is expected to receive 5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine.

By Monday only 194,678 people had been inoculated, according to the South China Morning Post.

"Taiwan had been so successful in controlling the outbreak, so many people thought they didn't need to be vaccinated as it was safe in Taiwan," said Lee Bing-ying, a pediatrician with the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society of Taiwan, according to the Post.

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Taipei, the capital, had become a "ghost city" by Sunday, Taiwan News reported.

Photos of the city showed popular neighborhoods including Xinyi District, Ximending, Tamsui Old Street, and Da Daocheng Wharf, had been deserted, the report said.

Taipei's subways also were relatively empty, with 1 million fewer people taking public transit Sunday than a week ago, according to the report.

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Taipei has imposed Level 3 epidemic control restrictions and has encouraged people to stay at home, reports said.

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