While countries around the world are facing rapidly increasing cases of COVID-19, Taiwan has been recognised globally for its effective response to the pandemic despite its close proximity to China, where the virus first emerged.
As Taiwan has recorded fewer cases and a lower death toll compared to other more distant countries from China, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said in TIME’s article on Thursday (16 April) that the country’s success in preventing a major outbreak is “no coincidence”.
Ms Tsai said the combination efforts from their medical professionals, government, private sector and the entire society contributed significantly in the defence against COVID-19.
Since the sign of new respiratory illness infections first emerged in China in December, Ms Tsai said Taiwan started implementing early response by monitoring inbound travellers from Wuhan, set up its Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) to handle prevention measures such as imposed travel restrictions and established quarantine protocols for high-risk travelers.
“The painful lessons of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which left Taiwan scarred with the loss of dozens of lives, put our government and people on high alert early on,” she said.
Taiwan had implemented stringent efforts in contact tracing of every patient after the first COVID-19 case in the country was confirmed on 21 Jan, and subsequently, it helped to isolate and stop the infections before a mass outbreak could take place in the community.
Commending the Health Minister Chen Shih-chung, who also head of CECC leaded the public-health professionals to fight against virus, Ms Tsai also applauded Taiwanese citizens for carrying out their role which have complemented the government efforts in public spaces.
She mentioned that the people like private businesses, franchises and apartment communities, have also taken the initiative to conduct body-temperature checking and disinfection in their premises.
As other countries around the globe succumbed to panic buying and rushed to stockpile toilet paper due to the fears of COVID-19, the Taiwan government responded quickly by monitoring market spikes in commodities and taking over the production and distribution of medical-grade masks to prevent mass panic buying in the community, says Ms Tsai.
The capacity of masks production has been proliferated as Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs has coordinated additional production lines for surgical masks with the cooperation of private machine-tool and medical-supply companies.
Ms Tsai said, “Supported by technology experts, pharmacies and convenience stores, we devised a system for distributing rationed masks. Here, masks are available and affordable to both hospitals and the general public.”
She also added that “Team Taiwan”, which is a partnership between government and private companies, provided support in allowing them to donate masks to the countries that hit-hard by the pandemic.
The human capacity to overcome challenges together is limitless. President Tsai says, “Taiwan can help”.
With Taiwan’s top health care system, strong research capabilities and transparent information between both the public and international agencies, Ms Tsai remarked that it has indeed helped them manage the spread of coronavirus within the nation effectively.
“Yet on a global level, COVID-19 is a humanitarian disaster that requires the joint efforts of all countries. Although Taiwan has been unfairly excluded from the WHO and the U.N., we remain willing and able to utilize our strengths across manufacturing, medicine and technology to work with the world,” she said.
Concerning the global conditions amid the pandemic, Ms Tsai then urged everyone across the world to work collectively to combat with COVID-19 and for the benefit of humankind by leaving behind their “differences”.
She noted, “Global crises test the fabric of the inter-national community, stretching us at the seams and threatening to tear us apart. Now more than ever, every link in this global network must be accounted for.”
“Taiwan is no stranger to hardship, and our resilience stems from our willingness to unite to surmount even the toughest obstacles.
“This, above all else, is what I hope Taiwan can share with the world: the human capacity to overcome challenges together is limitless. Taiwan can help,” Ms Tsai concluded.
Earlier, it was reported that a BBC journalist Cindy Sui also analysed how Taiwan has a lower number of COVID-19 cases compared with those countries which are much farther away from China.
Ms Sui noted that Taiwan began its proactive measures when it saw cases starting to spread in China. Other measures taken at the early stage, such as the utilisation of technology to reduce the risk of transmission, prohibition on exportation of face masks, debunking misinformation as well as the efforts of concerning the public welfare, also helped Taiwan ride out the COVID-19 pandemic.