Cinemas in Taipei and surrounding areas have been ordered to close for the first time since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.
Taiwan authorities issued an order on Saturday morning putting the capital city on a level three alert.
This requires the shutdown of cinemas, sports venues, libraries and other entertainment spots. Family get-togethers will be limited to five people indoors and ten outdoors. Masks must also be worn outdoors. Clubs, saunas, karaoke venues and internet cafes had been ordered closed from Friday.
“Only by doing this can infections be dealt with and controlled,” said health minister Chen Shih-chung. The measure is expected to remain in place until May 28, 2021.
Cinema chains posted notices on their websites and on social media announcing the immediate closure of venues in the capital city and surrounding areas. “The above-mentioned VieShow theaters, such as Xinyi, Songren MUVIE, Beijing Station, Banqiao, Linkou Mitsui, and Hualien, will be fully closed from 05/15 to 05/28 in order to comply with administrative measures,” said the largest chain VieShow Cinemas. The company website removed all screening details in Taipei, but posted screening information for its cinemas in other cities.
Local media reports that the Taiwan premiere of “F9,” directed by Taiwan-born Justin Lin, has been postponed from its scheduled May 19 slot.
The island has registered a significant surge of local infections in the past days, blemishing a hitherto exceptional virus control record. There were 29 new cases on Friday, and 180 new, local infections on Saturday.
Including the new cases there have been approximately 1,500 confirmed infections, mostly imported, in a population of 24 million. This was achieved by an early response to the outbreak that included tight border controls and a proactive testing regime.
Virus control had meant that Taiwan had avoided the kind of lockdowns that were seen in many other parts of the world. Cinemas were not ordered to close on health grounds, though many shut their doors temporarily due to lower audience numbers and a diminished supply of new film titles.
The Taipei Film Festival, held from late June last year, was one of the first film festivals in the world to operate as an in-person event after the virus outbreak. Those cinemas that remained open have been treated to a roster of releases that was distinctly more Asian than in normal years, when Hollywood titles typically dominate.
The rate of vaccination, however, has been low. This may reflect an apathy born of the government’s virus-control success, or as some have suggested because vaccine imports have been blocked by China. Taiwan’s political status is disputed and it has not been allowed to join the World Health Organization.
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