Taipei’s response to the coronavirus epidemic is the most effective in the world. The island, which has a population of 23 million, last reported a case that aired locally on April 12, which is Easter Sunday. As of Thursday, it had confirmed 553 cases – only 55 of which were local broadcasts. Seven deaths were reported.
Taiwan has never enforced strict lockdowns. It did not even resort to serious restrictions on civil liberties like the mainland China.
Taiwan confirmed the first reported case of the coronavirus novel on January 21 and later banned Wuhan residents from traveling to the island. All travelers from the mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau are required to be screened.
All of this happened before Wuhan was locked down on January 23rd. As of March, Taiwan has banned all foreign nationals from entering the island, except diplomats, residents and those with special entry visas.
But Taiwan has advantages that its counterparts in the West do not have.
One is geography – Taiwan is an island, so it is easy for authorities to control entry and exit through its borders.
Taiwan also has experience on its side. After suffering a devastating outbreak of Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, Taiwan worked to increase its capacity to deal with an epidemic, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said in an interview last month.
“So, when we heard that there were some secret pneumonia cases in China, patients were being treated alone, we knew it was something like this,” he said.
Authorities have activated the island’s Central Epidemic Command Center, which was set up in the wake of SARS for coordination between various ministries. The government has also increased production of face masks and protective equipment to ensure a steady supply of PPE.
Chen Chien-zen, a former Taiwanese vice president who is an epidemiologist by training, said lockdowns are not ideal. Chen said the type of mass-testing schemes undertaken on the mainland in China is such that it is unnecessary to test millions of people when certain cases are found.
“Very careful contact tracing, and very strict restraints of close contacts are the best way to have Kovid-19,” he said.
CNN’s Paula Hancox, James Griffiths and Minketton co-authored the report.