Chen Chien-jen says prompt action in December 2019 could have averted a global pandemic.
Taiwan reported a 16 local cases of coronavirus on Wednesday – the most in a single day since the pandemic began – prompting Health Minister Chen Shih-chung to urge people to be more vigilant and businesses to tighten their disease prevention measures.
Chen said the government would tighten COVID-19 prevention measures in all business venues, which will have to close if they are unable to comply.
Taiwan has plenty of personal protective equipment supplies and people do not need to panic-buy them, he told reporters, amid a rise in domestic infection figures.
The sudden emergence of a new cluster of cases of no clear origin – six were reported on Tuesday – has unnerved an island that has taken pride in its decisive response to COVID-19 as well as its effective contact-tracing and quarantine system.
Chen urged people to stay calm, noting that Taiwan had an effective disease response mechanism.
The official Central News Agency earlier reported Chen saying Taiwan might raise its pandemic alert level a notch to 3 in “coming days”, which would force shops selling non-essential items to close.
The island has already restricted public gatherings as a result of the new outbreak.
Describing the situation as “very serious”, Chen told parliament earlier on Wednesday the alert level could be lifted, which would also limit gatherings to five people indoors and 10 outdoors, as well as the closure of non-essential businesses.
Taiwan effectively closed its borders early in the pandemic helping keep infections under control. It has so far reported a total of 1,231 cases and 12 deaths.
It announced four new imported cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday – three from the Philippines and one from India.
The island joins Singapore and Vietnam – both of which have also kept COVID-19 in check for months – in battling sudden new outbreaks of the disease.