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TAIPEI, May 15 (Reuters) – Major universities in northern Taiwan are turning to online learning and some museums will close as the island grapples with a rare spike in nationwide COVID-19 infections, taking urgent measures to stop the spread.

Although Taiwan has just 1,290 cases, most imported from abroad, among a population of around 24 million, a recent uptick in community transmissions has spooked residents used to life as normal, despite the global pandemic. .

While the government has not yet raised the alert level, which could lead to the closure of shops selling non-essential items and severely limit gatherings, other brakes are being tightened, particularly in Taipei, the capital.

Late Friday, several universities, including the elite National Taiwan University, said they would immediately switch to remote learning, telling students to stay off campus.

“As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc, remember to wear a mask at all times when going out, wash your hands frequently, and maintain appropriate social distancing,” National Taiwan University said in a statement. a statement.

The Taipei Fine Arts Museum, where people lined up for a wildly popular exhibition by Japanese artist Shiota Chiharu that opened this month, said it would close from Saturday to comply with safety rules. city ​​prevention.

“The reopening date will be announced based on the epidemic situation and city regulations,” he said.

The National Palace Museum in Taipei, which houses one of the best and largest collections of Chinese art in the world, announced that it will also close from Saturday.

The current cluster of infections has centered on the north and Taipei, but cases have also cropped up elsewhere, such as the main southern port city of Kaohsiung.

Its mayor, Chen Chi-mai, said authorities would disinfect a wide range of public spaces, including night markets that typically attract hungry tourists.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)