COVID-19: Taiwan curtailed spread of pandemic with wise planning

Taipei: An infectious disease which is caused by a newly discovered coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan, China.

According to the South Morning China Post report, the first coronavirus case was reported on 17 November, last year.

A 55-year-old individual from Hubei province in China may have been the first person to have contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus spreading across the globe. That case dates back to Nov. 17, 2019.

Since then, the coronavirus has been spreading rapidly around the world with more than 2.2 million confirmed cases in 185 countries and at least 147,000 people have died.

Off the southeastern coast of China, there is an island nation – Taiwan, where public health officials took action before China did. Nearly three months after reporting its first confirmed case of Covid-19, till now, this country has reported only 398 positive cases and 6 deaths. It was one of the earliest countries to be hit and has one of the lowest infection rates.

Although, it was expected that Taiwan was one of the most at-risk areas outside of mainland China — owing to its close proximity, ties and transport links with China, it has the lowest number of positive cases and deaths in single digit.

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Now the question is how Taiwan has kept the virus under control without the restriction of lockdown when other parts of the world have not.

In 2003, during the SARS outbreak, Taiwan was among the worst-hit territories along with Hong Kong and southern China. This helped many parts of the region react faster to the current coronavirus outbreak and take the danger more seriously than in other parts of the world.

In early decisive measures of Taiwan was the decision to ban travel from parts of China, stop cruise ships docking at the island.

“Given the continual spread of Covid-19 around the world, understanding the action items that were implemented quickly in Taiwan, and the effectiveness of these actions in preventing a large-scale epidemic, may be instructive for other countries,” JAMA Networks report.

Among those early decisive measures was the decision to ban travel from many parts of China, stop cruise ships docking at the island’s ports, and introduce strict punishments for anyone found breaching home quarantine orders.

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How Taiwan managed the crisis

According to a report of JAMA, the CECC has rapidly produced and implemented a list of at least 124 action items including border control from the air and sea, case identification (using new data and technology), quarantine of suspicious cases, proactive case finding, resource allocation (assessing and managing capacity), reassurance and education of the public while fighting misinformation, negotiation with other countries and regions, formulation of policies toward schools and childcare, and relief to businesses.

In addition to daily press briefings by the minister of health and welfare the CECC, the vice president of Taiwan, a prominent epidemiologist, gave regular public service announcements broadcast from the office of the president and made available via the internet. These announcements included when and where to wear a mask, the importance of hand washing, and the danger of hoarding masks to prevent them from becoming unavailable to frontline health workers. The CECC also made plans to assist schools, businesses, and furloughed workers.

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