Taiwan sets an example for the world on how to respond to a future pandemic

All over the world 3.34 million cases of COVID-19 patients are reported today. In this scenario, Taiwan with a population of 23 million, has reported zero new cases of COVID-19 patients, for the past few days. Limiting the number of deaths to six and beating the prophecy that it was regarded as a country that might be heavily hit by COVID-19.

Taiwan is an East Asian island covered by mountains to the two-third of its surface area. It is located 180km off the southern coast of China and separated by Taiwan Strait from mainland China. The geographical proximity, economic ties and frequent travel to and from China make Taiwan as an in danger country to the infection.

Today as on May 2nd 2020, statistics say that there are 429 confirmed patients of COVID-19 with 324 recovered and 6 dead in Taiwan. Which is around 0.5% compared to the cases reported in mainland China. Which is praised as an incredible achievement by international health professionals.

International health professionals say that early detection and quick response has been the reason for Taiwan’s success. Meanwhile, government competence, well-trained health care professionals and lessons learned from the SARS outbreak in 2003 has also been playing a major role.

In 2003, 668 possible cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) were reported from Taiwan including 181 deaths. Since the day the first case of SARS was reported on 14th March 2003 Taiwan’s department of Health has started preparing for a severe outbreak of infectious disease. Since then Taiwan has developed its infrastructure facilities, found ways to track cases using big data and trained health professionals for a future outbreak.

 A research paper published on the International Journal of Infectious Diseases in March 2005, proposes strategies for addressing response operations after any immerging outbreaks in future, in Taiwan. Which emphases the commitment towards facing a future pandemic.

“Back in January, at the first sign of a new illness, she (Tsai Ing-Wen) introduced 124 measures to block the new illness, without having to resort lockdowns that have become common elsewhere”, mentions an article in Forbes Magazine.

President Tsai Ing-Wen has been earning credits for her significant leadership during global emergencies. And she ensured that the government activates the National Health Command Center set up after SARS in 2004 that allows the government to ensure Inter agency coordination.

Taiwan government adopted vigorous measures for screening which started by checking the symptoms of the people who were coming from Wuhan the epicentre of the pandemic. Also, the government imposed a travel ban for people coming to Taiwan from China, Hong Kong and Macaw when the number of cases started increasing in mainland China. 

“Well trained and experienced teams of officials were quick to recognize the crisis and activated emergency management structures to address the emerging outbreak. Through early recognition of the crisis, daily briefing to the public, and simple health messaging, the government was able to reassure the public by delivering timely, accurate and transparent information regarding the evolving epidemic” read the report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last month.

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance coverage rate is 99.9% and has been evaluated as the world’s best system by the Global Health Care Index. The dataset obtained from Taiwan’s National Health Insurance program was integrated with the dataset obtained from the immigration department so that the Doctors know the history of the patient which made case detections more accurate and easier.

When entering a public building, scanners were set up to check the body temperature and people with fever were isolated and the rest of the crowd was protected from possible exposure to infection.

Also to safeguard the general public from misinformation in online which could trigger panic, “Taiwan fast Check Center” was established and the support of meme engineers was utilized.

Wearing masks was made a rule and government was in control for mask production and distribution. Effective measures were adopted to avoid panic by ensuring that the citizens could go to a designated drug store weekly, to line up and buy a specific number of masks.

Following the robust steps taken by the government, the daily mask production capacity of Taiwan was increased from 1.8 million to 8 million masks paving the way for “Taiwan’s mask miracle”.

Contact tracing and enforcing quarantine was also effective. People who had contact with a patient with COVID-19 were quarantined. The health officials made sure to assist the quarantined using the cell phone and location data.

People under quarantine would be called two to three times a day to make sure that their symptoms do not get worse. Also, the government started to pay the quarantined to ensure they meet their daily needs. The ones who broke quarantine were imposed with a higher amount of fine, making sure that the rules and regulations stay a put.

President of Taiwan has given credits to the combine effects of medical professionals, government, private sector and society at large to have armoured the country’s defences.

By: Jumana Jabeer

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