Photo/Illutration People wear face masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they visit at a night market in Taipei on April 30. (AP Photo)

TAIPEI--Taiwan may raise its COVID-19 alert level in “coming days,” Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Wednesday, according to the official Central News Agency, which would lead to closure of shops dealing in non-essential items as infections rise.

On Tuesday, Taiwan announced plans to restrict public gatherings as a result of a cluster of six new cases with no clear infection source, an unusual outbreak for the island that had kept the pandemic well under control.

Describing the situation as “very serious,” Chen told parliament the level could be lifted a notch to 3, limiting gatherings to five people indoors and 10 outdoors, as well as closing of non-essential businesses.

Later he told media a decision might come in “coming days.”

President Tsai Ing-wen will hold a news conference on the coronavirus on Wednesday afternoon.

The benchmark stock index fell more than 8 percent on worries over the new cases, though infections are still relatively few.

Taiwan largely closed its borders early in the pandemic and has a robust contact tracing and quarantine system, keeping infections to 1,210, including 12 deaths, and allowing life to stay close to normal.

Although Taiwan has not previously ordered it, the highest alert level of 4 would trigger an effective lockdown, with people told to keep to home as much as possible.