It turns out the source of a cluster infection of COVID-19 on board a Taiwanese Navy ship in March originated in Taiwan rather than Palau.
The Garden of Hope Foundation has called on the government to ease COVID-19 relief requirements, saying that many women and children who live separately from the family members listed on their household registration due to sexual abuse, domestic violence or other reasons might be unable to access relief.
Health Minister Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC, stated “Safety within Taiwan and the opening up of our borders are two different matters.”
Taiwan cannot relax its border controls simply because the threat of contracting the disease domestically is low, he added.
There is some good news.
With no domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19 reported since April 12, rules on social distancing seating arrangements in cinemas and other public venues will be relaxed from June 7.
Restrictions on the number of people allowed to gather at cultural and leisure events will be lifted, while restaurants will no longer be required to install table dividers as long as there is sufficient space between tables.
However, when tables are close together and customers not from the same group, dividers will be required until a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment has been developed.
Social distancing seating arrangements will be lifted on Taiwan Railways Administration trains and high-speed rail trains, concert halls, theaters and baseball stadiums.
Although travelers and fans will still need to wear masks, under certain conditions the consumption of food will be allowed.
Government subsidy plans
According to the National Development Council, the government’s preliminary plan is to allow each person to spend NT$1,000 to obtain NT$3,000 in coupons, with no income or age restrictions.
The Executive Yuan is expected to announce its plans for the stimulus coupon scheme early next month before officially launching it in July.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications would on July 1 begin promoting the second phase of “disease prevention tours,” according Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍).
Lin said the ministry is planning campaigns that will subsidize the group travel sector to the tune of NT$600-NT$700 (US$20-US$23) per person per day, while the independent travel sector will enjoy a subsidy of NT$1,000 per room per night.
With a catchy, fun name like “disease prevention tour,” who could resist?
Yet again, the economic and business news has been mixed.
Let’s kick off with the bad news.
Restaurants and beverage vendors saw their sales in April fall 22.8 percent from a year earlier, according to MOEA data.
The 22.8 percent decline was the steepest year-on-year fall for any month since the ministry started to release the data in January 2000.
Taiwan’s manufacturing sector was still feeling down in April, as an index gauging sentiment among manufacturers fell to its lowest level in 11 years, according to the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research (TIER).
Consumer confidence in Taiwan weakened in May for the fourth consecutive month, according to National Central University (NCU).
NCU said the consumer confidence index (CCI) for May fell 8.52 points from a month earlier to 64.87, the lowest level since November 2009, when it stood at 62.47.
Taiwan’s economy remained sluggish in April due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with industrial production, sales and retail/wholesale revenue all weakening, the National Development Council (NDC) said Wednesday.
However, there was some good news, the nation’s industrial production increased 3.51 percent year-on-year last month, the third consecutive month of annual growth despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ministry of Economic Affairs data showed.
Demand for servers, laptops, and network and communications devices has continued to surge as people increasingly work and study from home during lockdowns worldwide.
The head of the government statistics office says that Taiwan’s unemployment rate is unlikely to rise in the coming months.
Let’s hope he’s right.
Finally, JP Morgan Chief Economist Bruce Kasman said that Taiwan’s economy is relatively stable despite the coronavirus pandemic and will perform better than most countries in the world.
According to JP Morgan’s latest report on the global outlook, Taiwan is expected to see a 0.1 percent growth in its GDP this year and a 3.1 percent economic growth rate in 2021.
King of Hualien want to stay involved in legislature
Legislator Fu Kun-chi, aka the “King of Hualien” and also soon to be issued his very own prisoner number, has applied to attend Q&A sessions in the legislature from jail via video chat.
Currently, legislative sessions are broadcast online, but his plan would allow him to be personally involved, if his idea is approved.
Man-heavy cabinet draws criticism
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on Tuesday criticized Taiwan’s new Cabinet lineup, saying that the appointment of only two women among the 42 members showed little recognition on the part of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for gender equality.
Women now make up only 4.76 percent of the Cabinet, the lowest ratio in Taiwan’s democratic history and a breach of Tsai’s campaign promise of a gender balanced administration, the KMT’s Culture and Communications Committee (CCC) said at a press conference.
During the KMT administration of then President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), women made up 20.8 percent of the Cabinet in 2008 and 23.4 percent in 2012.
In the previous DPP administration, during the presidency of Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the female Cabinet members were 21.4 percent in 2000 and 17 percent in 2004.
The KMT added that while Tsai is Taiwan’s first female president, the gender imbalance in the Cabinet highlights the patriarchal culture of her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The KMT is not alone in raising this issue, some rights groups have also done so.
Their numbers are off, a third woman has been added and it doesn’t appear they are including Audrey Tang–but that’s still less than 10 percent.
While I am not a fan of artificial quotas, only 4 out of 42 cabinet members is not good.
When I was chair of Taichung AmCham, which in many ways represents the Western community to the city government, I found having a board with people from a range of backgrounds was a big bonus.
Different people had different sets of connections in the many different communities in Taichung, and brought different perspectives and ideas.
This meant we had a stronger, more representative and more creative group.
The cabinet’s job, on a far grander scale, is to run the country on behalf of all the communities and peoples in Taiwan.
This cabinet will be hampered by this lack of representation, and will likely make mistakes as a result.
Women have experiences and perspectives that are harder for men to come by, and are very valuable to a government representing the entire nation.
It is also puzzling.
Taiwan has a strong bench of accomplished female talent at all levels of society, more so than most countries.
Over 40% of the legislature is women.
There is, however, a bit of pot-calling-the-kettle-black about this.
Both major parties have had a patchy record on this, but the KMT’s party list in the last election was weighted heavily towards geriatric men.
However, on this the KMT has a point.
Cops to patrol recall vote
Hundreds of additional police officers are to be deployed to safeguard public security in the buildup to a recall vote against Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) on Saturday next week, according to the National Police Agency (NPA) Deputy Director-General.
There have been widespread reports of gangsters planning to cause disruptions and dissuade people from voting.
The additional officers’ duties would include patrolling polling stations to uphold regulations against filming, violence and other illegal activities, to prevent voter intimidation.
Aaron Yin (尹立), founder of the Wecare Kaohsiung coalition of civic groups spearheading the recall campaign, on Monday filed a judicial complaint asking for an investigation into Han supporters who allegedly distributed pamphlets slandering him and other leading figures in the movement.
More than 100,000 pamphlets were distributed to households in Kaohsiung saying that he and other leading figures in the movement had profited handsomely from numerous city contracts thanks to their good relationship with past DPP administrations in the city, Yin said.
That’s not all Yin has been up to, he has also filed a complaint against the Kaohsiung City Government for launching a NT$50 million (US$1.67 million) stimulus program to boost consumer spending, which Yin said has contravened the law, as it uses public money to counter a recall vote against Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜).
Yin and his lawyer went to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office to file a complaint and ask that an investigation be launched.
They accused the city government of wrongdoing, illegal activities, undue profiteering and contravening the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法).
In this case, Yin isn’t on strong ground.
While it’s theoretically possible the timing was set to help blunt the recall vote, the fact of the matter is that many cities around the country have similar stimulus programs in place.
Taichung, for example, has already had a program in place for weeks–so even questions about the timing are dubious.
In related news, the Taipei Times has reported that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has proposed an amendment to the Political Donations Act (政治獻金法) to allow those launching recall-related events to receive political donations, saying that the current regulations infringe on people’s right to recall officials.
The draft amendment says that groups launching a recall of officials and those being recalled should both be able to receive political donations, but the groups initiating the process would have to pass the first stage of collecting signatures before they can ask for donations.
The funds could not be used for other purposes and all donations to either side would have to be turned over to the government once the efforts to launch a recall, or a recall vote, have concluded, it says.
vivataiwan trends in Brazilian backlash
A Brazilian lawmaker released a letter sent to their Chamber of Deputies by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China.
Translated by a helpful user on Reddit, part of it read “On May 20 of this year, the inauguration ceremony of Tsai Ing-wen, local leader of Taiwan, China, will take place.
We would be very grateful if the Chamber of Deputies, in the context of its commitment to the One China Principle, could take the necessary and preventive measures to make its Members aware of the sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, avoiding gestures or attitudes that could undermine to the One China Principle, how to participate in the aforementioned ceremony, send congratulatory messages to the Taiwan authorities, or maintain official contacts with them.”
This provoked an outraged response in Brazil, sending the Twitter hashtag #vivataiwan to number three worldwide.
Be sure to tune in tomorrow, I’ll be discussing the new national security law for Hong Kong that is expected to pass Thursday, and the response here in Taiwan.
Image of President Tsai with a bunch of men (not her cabinet) courtesy of her Facebook page