TAIPEI, Taiwan: Following reports of 180 new Covid infections on May 14, Taiwan tightened restrictions in Taipei and the surrounding areas.
For the next two weeks, gatherings will be prohibited and, for the first time, face masks will be required for the public when outside their homes.
Among the restrictions, cinemas and entertainment locations will be closed, and the government is encouraging the public to study and work from home.
Taipei's government had earlier shut bars and nightclubs.
"Only by doing this can infections be dealt with and controlled," Health Minister Chen Shih-chung told reporters.
Also, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je asked people to remain home as much as possible. "During this time, if you have nothing on, then stay at home and don't go out, and if you do, wear a mask to reduce infection from droplets," said Ko, who is also a physician.
Following the announcements, the public began stocking up on food and supplies at local grocery stores. However, the economy ministry took to Facebook to remind the public that supplies were plentiful and there was no need to hoard.
While the government said the island nation's economy remains strong, the increasing Covid rate unnerved the stock market this week.
Meanwhile, Deputy Finance Minister Frank Juan told Reuters that investors should remain calm since only a few sectors would be affected by the curbs, such as tourism.
It was noted that the Covid restrictions do not apply to the chip-manufacturing hub of Hsinchu, and are unlikely to slow the exports of semiconductors.
Chipmaking manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd. has said it was monitoring the restrictions and reducing non-essential gatherings and activities, while reducing the movement of people across different chip locations.
Vaccination rates remain low in Taiwan, though millions of vaccine doses have been ordered from Moderna and AstraZeneca.
More vaccines will begin arriving next month, Tsai said.
Taiwan has reported fewer than 1,500 cases of Covid among its 24 million people.