Taiwan’s distance from China (Mainland) which is the initial epicenter of the corona outbreak was 130 kilometers. While the distance from USA to China is 11,640 kilometers. But if we open the data published by Worldmeters regarding the corona outbreak which is now sweeping the world, as of April 14, 2020, out of a total of 1,929,209 cases of contracting the virus and a total of 119,757 deaths. In USA itself, there are 587,173 cases in which 23,644 people died.
While in Taiwan, there are 393 cases of people infected with the coronavirus with six people dead. For a country that is close to the center of the pandemic, it is clear that this number is an extraordinary achievement that must be appreciated.
The world of global health should learn from Taiwan’s way of dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. Unfortunately, Taiwan, with its world-class healthcare system, seems to be excluded from international relations. “One China” policy has made Taipei rejected from various international events when previously it could be present as an observer.
This was also done by WHO, considered the highest health authority in the world, against Taiwan. Until 2016, Taiwan was still allowed to participate in the WHO annual meeting as a non-state actor. Unfortunately for the past three years, Taiwan’s request to be involved in routine WHO meetings was denied.
If Taiwan wants to be involved in a meeting of health experts to identify the challenges of the health world initiated by WHO, they must submit a request, not be invited like other WHO members. Ironically, every time Taiwan submits a request, WHO always rejects it. Therefore, for the past three years Taiwan has not been included in the discussion of influenza vaccines.
Then, How does Taiwan deal with this COVID-19 Outbreak?
Anders Fogh Rosmussen argued that Taiwan’s strength in dealing with corona lies in “deploying a combination of big data, transparency and central command.” This methods did not just emerge. Taiwan learned a lot from the SARS outbreak in 2003. Therefore when COVID-19 first broke out in Wuhan, Taiwan was ready to face it.
Taiwan has learned from SARS outbreak
According to Dr. Jason Wang, from The Center for Policy, Outcomes and Prevention (CPOP), Stanford University. Taiwan began its move towards the COVID-19 outbreak in December 2019, when it first appeared in Wuhan. When a plane came from Wuhan, Taiwan moved quickly to check. Before the plane landed, they checked the symptoms of passengers. The designated official was very careful to detect the arrival of the virus from Wuhan.
Taiwan immediately activated the National Health Command Center which they had prepared after the SARS outbreak in 2004. This activation enabled the government to have a basis for interdepartmental coordination in government in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak.
Taiwan uses Big Data
In addition, Taiwan also uses Big Data which is integrated with data from the National Health Insurance and Immigration and Customs database. So when a doctor examines a patient, he already knows that the patient has traveled everywhere. Examination will run faster.
When someone came from Wuhan, the doctor no longer asked where they were coming from, but asked deeper if they had a fever or cough, and they would ask him to take the Covid-19 test. Taiwan integrates data and uses it to detect the arrival of infectious diseases.
Self-quarantine is Mandatory
In addition, the government also uses cellular phones and location data to quarantine its people. Health officials will contact a traveler in quarantine two or three times to ensure that their symptoms do not get worse.
If the symptoms getting worse, the doctor will come to their house. If the doctor does not come and they will continue to quarantine themselves at home, then Taiwan government employees will deliver food to their homes.
However, if the person leaves the house, does not comply with quarantine instructions, then the officer will come to his house to give a large fine. Conversely, if they stay at home, they will be paid. Therefore, people do not need to worry about staying at home, because in addition to being prepared food, he is also paid.
The government also anticipates a shortage of medical supplies. The manufacture of masks and their distribution is tightly controlled by the government. They realise that this is a very important material in dealing with pandemic. Taiwan implemented more than 120 protocols during the spread of this outbreak.
They also held back the arrival of the public at the hospital. If they experience such as fever, they will be taken to another place to be treated. This procedure applies equally in every institution.
In addition, in public buildings, there are scanners that will detect whether a person has a fever or not. If he has a fever, he cannot enter the building automatically. Because of that the school is still open, the kids keep going to school, and their body temperature is already stored on the computer.
Outside Taiwan’s health infrastructure that is ready to face an outbreak, it is interesting to look at Taiwan’s social and cultural factors. A Youtuber named Lukas Engström in his video titled COVID-19 in France, Sweden and Canada vs. Taiwan reveals the socio-cultural side of Taiwan compared to several European countries.
According to Engström, several European countries have the habit of shaking hands, hugging, and kissing on the cheek when meeting. Even countries like France have the term france kisses to describe their habits when they meet up. Yet as is well known, such those habits make transmission of the virus easier. While in Taiwan, people just raise and waving their hands (without touching).