Mar 13, 2020

Taiwan and the Coronavirus - How is the Country Coping?

Below is from an article by the Guardian

Taiwan has introduced phone-tracking technology to monitor the locations of those under quarantine, which many believe is one of the reasons behind Taiwan’s thus-far successful control over virus exposure, considering its close location to the epicentre of the outbreak of the virus on mainland China.


Other reasons behind the relative success “can be attributed to the use of technology, a central command centre, its single-payer healthcare system, and swift decision making.” So far, there have been only 48 confirmed cases of Coronavirus (with 1 death) confirmed on the island, although the number is expected to rise.

A Canadian man travelling home from South Korea via Taiwan is being held in quarantine in the island nation. Shawn Bryant, the man in question, knew he would be quarantined upon his arrival and he has been in contact with the local police everyday. After asking their permission to move to a knew accommodation, they told him it was fine.

However, when Bryant was in a taxi en-route to the new accommodation, he received a text warning him that he had travelled too far from his previous accommodation and thay we would be fined if he didn’t return straight away. While he was told to ignore the message by the authorities, he stated “I’m glad they’re taking it very seriously and not letting people off the hook easily”.

According to the Guardian, Taiwan was one of the first countries to implement stringent restrictions on border controls and ban the export of surgical facemasks. The policy, while seeming extreme at first, has paid off in Taiwan’s reduced exposure to the virus.

The island’s preparedness came partly form its previous experience with the Sars virus outbreak in 2003. “What we learned from Sars was that we need to be very sceptical with data from China,” said Chan Chang-chuan, dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health. “We learned very harsh lessons then and that experience is something other countries don’t have.”

Currently, Taiwan is not a member of the World Health Organization (WHO) due to China’s continued lobbying for its exclusion – China ceases diplomatic relations with any country that recognises Taiwan as an independent state as it retains its claim that Taiwan is a part of China.

However, in February, Taiwanese experts were allowed to participate professionally in a WHO forum about the Covid-19 Coronavirus, to which China’s foreign ministry gave its permission, although Taiwan stated that it was in fact due to their own direct negotiations with the WHO. Other leaders, including Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau and Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe, have advocated for Taiwan’s membership of the organisation.

Some experts in the country of 24 million people believe that not enough is currently being done. Chan Chang-chuan has called for more widespread testing for the virus. Taiwan currently only tests around 800 people per day, in contrast to South Korea (with twice the population of Taiwan), which conducts around 15,000 a day, and not everyone under quarantine in Taiwan is tested.