Taiwan on Sunday reported no new daily confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus for the fourth time in a month and no new local infections for 14 consecutive days.
The total number of those infected in the country remains at 429.
343 have been classified as imported and 55 as local infections.
31 from Taiwan’s Navy are still being investigated to determine whether the source of their infections were imported or domestic.
There have not been reports of any domestic transmission from those 31 Navy cases.
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has announced that people in mandatory home isolation or quarantine are now allowed to apply for compassionate leave under specific conditions.
“People who are under home isolation or quarantine, but must attend a family member’s funeral or visit a family member who is terminally ill, would be allowed to leave their quarantine location under strict conditions” said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中).
According to the CECC, the mortality rate of COVID-19 patients on ventilators in Taiwan is 25 percent.
Compared with an 88 percent mortality rate for COVID-19 patients on ventilators at a dozen hospitals in New York City and Long Island in a study of 2,634 patients published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Taiwan’s 25 percent mortality rate is relatively low.
Concerns are rising over the upcoming long weekend, and the potential for new domestic infections.
The Freeway Bureau is to update its smartphone app, Freeway 1968 (高速公路1968), with enhanced functionality to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 over the International Workers’ Day long weekend next week.
The new version of the app features colors indicating different levels of crowd density at targeted scenic areas, with “red” signifying a high-density crowd or traffic congestion that people should avoid.
Fire in Taipei
The Taipei City Fire Department said it received a call at 10:57 a.m. about a fire at a Cashbox KTV on Linsen North Road.
The fire led to a total of 52 people sent to hospital, with five dead and two in critical condition.
Around 200 people were evacuated from the building.
The fire was extinguished by 11:30 am.
Judicial Yuan explains why they don’t want juries
The Judicial Yuan explained to the Legislative Yuan it prefers to adopt Japan’s system of citizen participation rather than a jury system.
Japan randomly selects six citizens to be lay judges who sit alongside three court judges and jointly decide both the verdict and the sentencing.
Among the 10 reasons given, the Judicial Yuan said the Japanese system allows better communication and interaction between citizens and court judges and avoids a “hung jury”.
Allowing citizens to have a role in deciding sentencing also meets public expectations, they noted.
Two new constitution proposals move forward
Two referendum proposals are scheduled to be sent to the Central Election Commission (CEC) next week with the aim of seeing if there is local support for writing a new constitution for the country.
The two initiatives have so far each garnered more than 3,000 signatures, surpassing the required threshold of 1,931 signatures as required in the Referendum Act.
Once approved by the CEC, the foundation will have to collect more than 289,667 signatures in the second stage of the three-step process to allow the referendum vote.
The vote will be held Aug. 28, 2021 if the CEC verifies the signatures as passing the required threshold for a referendum vote.
The votes will be declared valid if 25 percent of the electorate, or around 5 million ballots cast, and a majority votes in favor of each of the two petitions.
In the two referendums voters will be asked two questions:
“Do you support the president in initiating a constitution reform process for the country?”
“Do you support the president in pushing for the establishment of a new constitution reflecting the reality of Taiwan?”
Organizers said that the country’s existing constitution was adopted in China back in 1947 for China before the Republic of China (ROC) government relocated to Taiwan in 1949, and does not fit for Taiwan.
The government recently changed the laws on referendums, decoupling them from general elections.
That is likely to reduce turnout significantly.
Also a major factor will be the DPP’s support–or lack thereof–for these referendums.
They have the power to mobilize–or not–a large chunk of the population, plus the marketing muscle to put the issue out front-and-centre with voters.
Incoming Vice President William Lai most likely will support them, though whether he goes public with that depends on the president.
President Tsai will have a tough decision to make.
If the referendums pass, that would give her an opportunity to make much needed changes, and to put her stamp on them.
On the other hand, the PRC will no doubt react very, very badly indeed.
In a worst case scenario, China might invoke their “anti-succession” law, which they carefully crafted to give themselves a so-called “legal” excuse to take strong action, including potentially war, against Taiwan if Taiwan is deemed to be moving towards what they refer to as “independence”.
The KMT will almost certainly oppose the referendums.
Gas prices hit 20-year low
Taiwan’s two major fuel suppliers announced cuts Sunday to their diesel and gasoline prices this week, dropping domestic fuel prices to their lowest level in 20 years.
The prices are the lowest since November 1999.
Former US ambassador petitions Taiwan for WHO inclusion
Former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has launched an online petition urging the U.S. Congress to probe whether China covered up the coronavirus outbreak and support Taiwan joining the World Health Organization (WHO).
More than 77,000 people have signed the “Stop Communist China” petition by Saturday night, two days after it was launched by Haley, who has set a goal of getting 100,000 signatures.
Somewhat problematic NPP poll released
The NPP has released a new poll.
However, it is somewhat problematic, with a small sample size of only 813.
Some of the questions also had odd wording, which works to their favour.
Asked about satisfaction with the six big metropolis mayors in their handling of the coronavirus crisis, New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-yi of the KMT came out way ahead with 46.9% supporting his efforts.
Taoyuan’s Cheng Wen-tsan of the DPP came in second at 12.4%, with Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je of the TPP coming in third at 11.4%.
Tainan’s Huang Wei-che of the DPP got only 5.4%.
Bringing up the rear were Taichung’s Lu Shiow-yen of the KMT at 4.4% and Kaohsiung’s KMT mayor Han Kuo-yu at 4.1%.
Polling also showed that 52.1% of Kaohsiung residents approved of voting to recall Mayor Han.
They also included a party support question.
However, the wording of the question is odd:
Roughly translated it reads “which party is most capable of insisting on social justice, investigating fraud and putting an end to profiteering?”
In short, they are asking which party is most likely to conform to their own brand.
The DPP is up 8.8% from March, reaching 31.6%.
The NPP came in second with 14.5%.
The KMT third with 9.9%.
The TPP didn’t do very well considering their brand messaging, getting only 7.7%.
In a more normal question on support, 76.9% were either very or somewhat satisfied with President Tsai Ing-wen, while the dissastifieds came in at 10.9%.
While keeping in mind the poll is a bit odd and not necessarily very representative, a few things do jump out.
Listeners to this show and Current Affairs Taiwan will know that we’re paying very close attention to New Taipei Mayor Hou Yu-yi.
He is far and away the most popular figure in the KMT, and this poll on his handling of the coronavirus crisis showed his support was significantly higher than all the other mayors of the big six metropolises combined.
That Taichung’s Lu Shiow-yen and Kaohsiung’s Han Kuo-yu languished at the bottom is a similar result to the respected Commonwealth polling last year on their support as mayor and support for their administrations.
Both ranked down near the bottom.
It is also significant that Changhua County Commissioner Wang Hui-mei of the KMT was also near the bottom.
Changhua is the biggest administration outside of the big six.
In 2018 the KMT won big in local elections, but all indications up to now suggest they will struggle mightily in the 2022 local elections.
The recall election against Han may mean he is out even earlier.
Taichung’s Lu doesn’t appear to be quite so hated, though there is a recall campaign against her as well.
It hasn’t gained all that much traction, however.
Philippines wants to deport Filipina from Taiwan
A foreign office of the Department of Labor and Employment of the Philippines on Saturday said it sought the deportation of a Filipina worker in Taiwan after the woman posted “nasty and malevolent materials intended to cause hatred” against President Rodrigo Duterte on social media.
The labor attaché of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Taichung City, identified the migrant worker as a caregiver employed in Yunlin county.
He alleged that the woman was using multiple social media accounts and participated in a group “organized to discredit and malign the President and destabilize the government.”
His staff went to the woman on April 20 to tell her that her social media posts “amounted to a crime, for which she might be prosecuted both in Taiwan and the Philippines.”
The worker reportedly was “cooperative and cordial” and assured she will delete all her posts against Duterte and even promised not to do it again.
The labor attaché added that the Filipina worker promised to post a public apology to the President and the Philippine government on the same day.
“However, hours after the visit, several posts were seen on the POLO Taichung’s Facebook page from several fake accounts assuring (the worker’s) cause and further giving her assurance of support,” he said.
He said his office has coordinated with the worker’s broker and employer on her deportation on her supposed offense under Philippine law.
How the Taiwan government handles this bears close watching.
The principles at stake here are Taiwan’s standing as a liberal, democratic country dedicated to free speech.
If the government caves in to the Philippines demands, this shows a disregard for those principles and calls into question how important the rights of hardworking foreigners are to the government.
If the government helps defend this Filipina, however, it will show a firm commitment to basic human rights in spite of international pressure.
The third option for the Tsai administration is to do nothing, neither defending nor deporting her–and allowing the Philippines to sue their citizen in local courts.
This incident also begs another question: precisely how powerful is she that she can “destabilize the government” of the Philippines by posting on Facebook from Yunlin County?