On May 16, Taiwan’s health minister Chen Shih-chung issued a level 3 soft lockdown alert, with restrictions such as mandatory mask-wearing in all public spaces and a 10-people limit to outdoor gatherings.
The greater Taipei city area was the most affected by the new wave. With the restrictions, its wealthiest areas have become empty in the past few days.
The Taiwanese CDC has identified two major infection clusters — one linked to China Airlines’ flights and another to a “sexy tea shop,” entertainment venues where men, usually older, are served intimately by young female waitresses.
Critics blamed the relaxation of quarantine rules for unvaccinated China Airlines’ staff in mid-April for that cluster. By May 11, 13 China Airlines pilots had tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been 30 domestic cases linked to the hotel where airline staff was being quarantined.
A former chair of the local chapter of Lions Club International developed COVID-like symptoms and tested positive on May 11. Contact tracing showed that he had visited a sexy tea shop in Taipei’s Wanhua area between May 4 and May 10.
There are more than 100 sexy tea shops in Wanhua district and the sector employs thousands of people. By May 20, 299 COVID-19 positive cases had been linked to the Wanhua district, which means the infection chain could be far more extensive.