The democratically ruled island off the coast of China, widely praised as a success for its handling of COVID-19, reported 335 new cases Monday — a record single-day rise.
All but two were locally transmitted, the island’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) reported.
According to the Taiwan Centres for Disease Control, 155 out of 158 cases in the capital, Taipei, were linked to hostess teahouses.
Monday’s numbers follow a previous record 207 new cases reported on Sunday.
Taiwanese authorities imposed new social distancing measures on Saturday, closing bars, clubs and gyms around the island, and restricting indoor gatherings in Taipei and the surrounding New Taipei City to five people.
In Taipei, people must wear masks outdoors — failure to do so is punishable by a fine of 3,000 to 15,000 New Taiwanese dollars ($107 to $535).
All schools and kindergartens in Taipei and New Taipei will be closed for two weeks starting on Tuesday and several local councils have also been suspended.
The measures were in response to “an increasing level of community transmission, shown by cases of unknown sources of infection as well as cluster infections in Taipei City and New Taipei City,” the Taiwan Centres for Disease Control said in a news release.
The self-ruled island’s leader, Tsai Ing-wen, urged residents to follow the guidelines, and ensure those around them stayed safe and healthy.
The spike in cases caused some alarm, prompting some residents to rush to get vaccinated, CNA reported.
After weeks of concern over low vaccination uptake, Mr Chen said he was now worried stocks may run out, CNA reported.
The elderly, medical personnel and other emergency or high-risk workers, as well as diplomats, police, care workers and some other professions are currently eligible for vaccination under the government program.
The island’s current COVID-19 outbreak is relatively small compared to those in other parts of the world, but is an unfamiliar situation for Taiwan, which has until now managed to avoid a serious spike in cases.
Taiwan has reported 2017 confirmed cases and 12 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to the Taiwan Centres for Disease Control.
Taiwan’s success was partly thanks to tough border rules similar to Australia’s, which saw it ban almost all non-residents from entering the island from March last year.
Mr Chen said last week that Taiwan would quarantine all active pilots working for Taiwanese carrier China Airlines for 14 days amid a COVID-19 outbreak among flight crews and hotel workers.