Taiwan warns annual tomb-sweeping ritual could hasten spread of virus

The Taiwanese government on Tuesday urged people to maintain safe social distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic amid worries that the approaching Tomb Sweeping Festival could speed up new infections.

Starting on Thursday, it is expected that millions of people around the island will return home to conduct tomb-sweeping rituals, which are a common way of honouring ancestors.

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Since March, the government has suggested that people either downsize such gatherings at the graveyard or conduct rituals online.

Seeing a steady rise in confirmed cases of Covid-19, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center urged people stay at least 1.5 metres away from each other indoors and one metre away outdoors, in an escalation of the government’s earlier social distancing guidance.

“If you’re unable to follow the principles under certain circumstance, please do wear a mask,” Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung told a news conference on Tuesday.

Chen said people on public transportation should wear a face mask.

Last week, the centre said that indoor gatherings of 100 people and outdoor gatherings of 500 people or more should be cancelled.

To further lower the risk of possible coronavirus infection, the centre said it had considered gradually lowering the limit numbers of participants at mass gatherings.

As of Tuesday, Taiwan has recorded 322 total cases of Covid-19, including five deaths.

Thirty-nine patients have recovered.

The 16 new patients reported on Tuesday include 14 Taiwanese nationals returning from abroad. Meanwhile, for one of the two new local transmission cases, the origin of the coronavirus remains unknown.


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