World Should Learn from Taiwan’s COVID-19 Prevention Measures
The COVID-19 outbreak has continued to spread around the globe. While every government is striving to take effective prevention measures, Taiwan’s government is being praised by foreign media, because of its quick reaction and effective prevention measures. Taiwan’s 49 confirmed COVID-19 cases are relatively low compared with neighboring countries such as South Korea and Japan.
Countries facing a rapid increase of confirmed cases are suffering not only from public panic but also from a shortage of masks. However, Taiwan’s government has shown outstanding leadership by urgently taking measures in order to address public fear and prevent people from stocking up (on) masks.
Besides, Taiwan already blocked the entry of people from mainland China before the circumstance exacerbated, and cooperated actively with medical experts. Taiwan’s government was able to take action quickly, and the National Health Command Center (NHCC) which was established during the outbreak of SARS, played a critical role in handling COVID-19 related issues successfully.
Regarding the mask supply, Taiwan’s government prohibited exporting masks just four days after identifying the first confirmed case and started to install additional mask production lines. Moreover, it has implemented the ‘mask rationing system’ and the state-owned Chunghwa Post Co. is delivering 3.96 million masks per day from 24 factories to the 6,515 NHI-contracted pharmacies across the country. Therefore, Taiwanese people are able to check the stock of masks online.
As Taiwan’s COVID-19 prevention measures are clearly taking effect, the world should refer to the following prevention measures that were taken by the Taiwanese government.
Strict Border Control and Banning of Chinese From Entry
Taiwan started airport inspection of passengers (arriving) from Wuhan in the initial phase of (the) COVID-19 spread, Hubei province from January, and banned the entry of Chinese people from 7th of February. Taiwanese passengers were under quarantine for 14 days. It is a policy that might have a negative effect on Cross-Strait relations.
However, Taiwan’s government made a decision in order to protect (its) citizens. On the contrary, neighboring countries, South Korea and Japan did not strictly control their borders in the initial stage which is (considered one of the reasons) for an increased risk of the spread of COVID-19.
Measures Taken by National Health Command Center
In 2003, Taiwan suffered from an outbreak of SARS. A year later in 2004, Taiwan’s government established the NHCC. It is led by Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), a physician, scientist, and expert on infectious disease, and political interference is ruled out. Based on the previous experience of dealing with SARS and well-developed infrastructure of the NHCC this enabled a quick response to initial reports of COVID-19.
Banning Mask Exports and Increased Mask Production
Four days after identifying the first confirmed case, Taiwan banned the export of surgical masks. Along with this policy, the government requested mask production factories to run factories 24/7 by providing financial support to install additional mask production lines. Mask production increased from 4 million per day to 8.2 million per day, the number will continue to increase up to 13 million per day by next month.
Manpower Support From Military
Taiwan’s government provided manpower by deploying military personnel to mask production factories to alleviate the mask shortage problem. Soldiers are now guarding the mask factories to prevent any attempts to smuggle out masks. As Taiwan’s government is taking control of mask production and operating a ‘mask rationing system’, under which people are allowed to purchase limited amounts of mask only in a pharmacy by using their national health insurance card, mask-hoarding or smuggling did not happen in Taiwan.
Mask Delivery Via Postal Service
Taiwan’s government purchased all the masks that were produced in Taiwan and lowered the price of masks. The original price of one mask was 8 NTD (0.26 US$) and was lowered to 5 NTD (0.17 US$). This was possible because the state owned Chunghwa Post is in charge of distributing the masks from 24 factories in 10 cities and counties to various post offices for delivery.
Around 3,000 Chunghwa Postal workers deliver surgical masks that are to be sold at more than 6,000 locations nationwide.
Online Platform Proving Availability Info On Masks
Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang (唐鳳) has developed an online platform that contains over 100 digital maps to provide real-time information about the availability of supplies of face masks across Taiwan. From the 12th of March, people can also purchase masks online.
Among neighboring countries, South Korea implemented the ‘mask rationing system’ like Taiwan, to prevent mask-hoarding. But it was only after the confirmed cases in South Korea increased exponentially and flights from South Korea were restricted from entering more than 100 countries. The South Korean government had at this time only banned flights departing from Hubei Province, while medical experts were strongly recommending the government ban all flights from mainland China although this was not accepted by the government.
However, the number of confirmed cases is drastically increasing not only in neighboring countries to Taiwan but also in European countries and the U.S, it is becoming clear that the world is under the influence of COVID-19. It is high time that states should refrain from making decisions based on political calculations, and every nation state should place a high priority on citizens’ health while taking preventive measures to fight against COVID-19.
The world should learn from Taiwan’s COVID-19 prevention measures.
Taiwan can help.
金韶顯 (Amber Kim)
National Chengchi University
International Master’s Program in Asia-Pacific Studies
Letters To The Editor are written to The Taiwan Times expressing the opinions of the letter writer, and in no way express official policy or personal opinion of The Taiwan Times, or its staff. Any edits made are for clarity.