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Monitoring the Outbreak Closely – Mayor: The Next 7 Days Are Critical and We Should Remain Vigilant

Mayor Ko Wen-je speaks at an event Mayor Ko Wen-Je issued relevant directives pertaining to the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak after the city hall meeting in the morning of January 30, and Deputy Mayor Huang is expected to release a statement after the city hall-level emergency action team meeting this afternoon. Mayor Ko emphasized that with more than 6,000 confirmed cases in China and 8 in Taiwan, in light of the frequent interactions between Taiwan and China, the next 7 days will be a critical period and everyone should stay vigilant.

During the media interview, journalists first asked about the Mayor's thoughts on banning the export of masks, to which Mayor Ko reiterated that the top priority is to save the citizens of Taiwan before we can save others. However, the scientific question depends on the mask reserve as well as the production output of masks in Taiwan. He subsequently came across an unconfirmed statistic revealing that the majority of Taiwan's masks are imported, hence we should be worried about other countries not selling masks to us instead of banning our mask exports. Consequently, he believes that scientific questions should be resolved through science, and logistics is a mathematical problem, thus it is imperative to get all the facts straight before tackling it.

When the journalists asked Ko about him once mentioning "it depends on if you are wearing a mask," and whether the fact that the mayor is wearing a mask today signifies that the outbreak is getting worse. Mayor Ko replied that since there are now more than 6,000 confirmed cases in China and everyone is going back to work in Taiwan, according to the government’s information the number will soon exceed 6,000. With such frequent interaction between Taiwan and China, the next 7 days are the critical period in terms of outbreak prevention. During this period, if the number of patients does not spike significantly, the outbreak will be easier to contain in the future. However, if confirmed cases suddenly increase considerably, it will only mean trouble. Therefore, he believes the next 7 days are the critical period, and he is wearing the mask for self-protection.

The journalists asked if Mayor Ko agreed with the US's assessment that Taiwan will be the second worst-hit country besides China in terms of the outbreak. He replied that, from a transportation point of view, the US's estimate is probably not incorrect, but the African swine fever outbreak has not yet breached Taiwan, suggesting that Taiwan 's medical care and epidemic prevention system are among the best in the world. Nonetheless one should not become complacent, because although the number of confirmed cases in China has suddenly surpassed 6,000 and Taiwan is contained at 8, he still believes that it all depends on the number of domestic cases confirmed within the next 7 days; if it increases abruptly then the Americans' predictions are correct, and if the number can be kept low but rises slowly, then it will mean that Taiwan has triumphed in the war against an epidemic after the African swine virus. Again, the situation will reveal itself in the next 7 days, after the critical period has passed.

When asked if the mayor has demanded all frontline city hall employees to wear a mask, Ko commented that frontline employees, especially those sitting behind counters, are ordered to wear a mask for their own protection because they often come into contact with different people every day who will not inform you if they have flu or respiratory symptoms, and there is also the added risk of citizens suddenly sneezing in front of city hall employees.

The journalists raised questions concerning the Taipei City Government's epidemic prevention measures, to which Mayor Ko pointed out that he has issued several instructions after the Mayor's Office meeting this morning and they will be passed down to various departments and offices to begin preparation. At 14:00, an emergency action team meeting will be convened, after which Deputy Mayor Huang will issue a statement pertaining to Taipei City's new epidemic control policies and measures.

When the journalists asked if Taipei City would follow Kaohsiung City Government's policy on requesting frontline employees in private enterprises to take compulsory body temperatures and wear masks, Mayor Ko commented that the policy of "from the inside out, and from public to private" will be applied, and hence an executive order has been issued to all government agencies but private organizations will only receive recommendations. However, city hall will monitor the outbreak closely, and if it escalates quickly, the government will issue the necessary orders. He personally believes that one should not over-react to the outbreak, but it is essential to be prepared for the worst, so city hall will determine its policies based on the changing circumstances of the outbreak every day.