Here's how Taiwan beat the pandemic

WION New Delhi Oct 29, 2020, 10.35 PM(IST) Oct 29, 2020, 10.43 PM(IST) Written By: Gravitas desk

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Taiwan's strategy has been simple. Trace, test and quarantine. No lockdown. It's the strategy that has made it the world leader, in pandemic response

2020 has been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cities were locked down. Social life was disrupted. Economies still are in tailspin. But one country has made it work. It has emerged unscathed, despite being surrounded by hotspots. That country is Taiwan. Taiwan's last locally transmitted case came on April 12th. Two hundred days have passed, with zero cases of local transmission. 

Taiwan's strategy has been simple. Trace, test and quarantine. No lockdown. It's the strategy that has made it the world leader, in pandemic response

Let's put Taiwan's COVID-19 stats in perspective. 550 confirmed cases, and only 7 deaths. 

This is a country of 23 million people. Australia has a similar population but it registered almost 28,000 cases and 900 deaths.

Majority of Taiwan's cases were imported. Residents who got infected outside the country. So what did Taiwan do differently? How did it succeed where far wealthier nations failed? For starters, Taiwan had a headstart. By December, it knew about a SARS-like infection spreading in Wuhan.

The first thing authorities did was observe passengers from China. Once they were convinced of the threat, Taiwan sealed its borders. This was way back in January. Taiwan was also quick to stockpile masks and PPE kits. In 4 months, it went from making 2 million masks a day to 20 million. Many countries struggled with shortage in the early stages, Taiwan had no such issue.
 
But the most crucial part of Taiwan's plan was contact-tracing. For each confirmed case, the government traced 20 to 30 contacts. These people would then go into home quarantine. It did not matter whether they tested positive or not. 34,000 people have undergone home quarantine in Taiwan, almost 1.5 per cent of the total population.

Fewer than 1000 people ended up violating it. That's a compliance rate of 99.7 per cent.

The public had a major role in Taiwan's success story

Past experience also helped. In 2003m the SARS epidemic dealt a huge blow to Taiwan. Hundreds of people became ill. At least 73 died.

Since then, Taiwan has been preparing for the next pandemic. When the Wuhan virus came, Taiwan had all the tools to combat it. It has also avoided an economic meltdown. The GDP is projected to expand by almost 2 per cent.

So does this mean absolute victory? Not quite. Taiwan is still reporting imported cases. Around 20 cases were reported in last 2 weeks alone. Taiwan's response has been the gold-standard of pandemic response. The 200-day streak is another example of why Taiwan needs a seat at World Health Organisation. Its knowledge could be crucial in preventing the next pandemic.
 

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