Just two days ago, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a pandemic.
It’s not because the virus got deadlier. It’s due to the fact that it has spread to many countries around the world.
Now, you’ll think, if Italy, a country which is pretty far away from China, has 15,113 cases and 1,016 deaths…
How would a country closer to China fare? Like, say, Taiwan, which is only a bit more than 130km from Wuhan.
Probably worse, right? After all, a virus spread is like an earthquake, the closer you are to the epicentre, the higher the impact.
As of the time of writing, Taiwan has 49 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 1 death. And out of these cases, 20 has recovered.
What’s Their Secret?
Business Insider analysed the secret behind Taiwan’s seemingly invincibility against the Covid-19 and they came to this conclusion.
Taiwan. Didn’t. Panic.
Instead of running around like headless chickens or denying that Covid-19 will ever hit their shores, Taiwan decided to respond to the Covid-19 virus the only way they can.
Rapidly and decisively.
A Rapid Response To A Possible Threat
On 31 Dec 2019, when news about Covid-19 broke, Taiwan immediately started screening arrivals from Wuhan.
Officials boarded the planes the moment they landed to monitor their health conditions.
And less than a week later, they started monitoring people with travel history to Wuhan.
It was reported that suspected cases were screened for 26 viruses including SARS and MERS.
Passengers who showed symptoms were quarantined at home and assessed if they need to go to a hospital.
Then, a team was sent over to China for a “fact-finding” mission.
Health Procedures Ramped Up Ahead Of Time
In mid-January, a Central Epidemic Command Center was set up to coordinate public health strategies across the country.
Taiwan also banned the exports of masks and ensure that the masks sold within the country were capped at $0.17 per piece.
This helped make sure that everyone can afford to get a mask for themselves.
And by the later part of February, Taipei has distributed the following to schools and after-school institutions:
- 6.5 million masks
- 84,000 litres of hand sanitisers
- 25,000 forehead thermometers
The Use Of Technology
Taiwan has created big data for analytics by integrating their customs and immigration records with its national health insurance system.
With this data, they are able to accurately identify cases as real-time alerts are generated during a clinical visit.
Data includes their symptoms and travel history.
Travellers are also able to report their health and travel history using a QR code. Any travellers who did not travel to a high-risk area will be sent a health declaration border pass.
This pass will allow them to clear immigration faster.
As for those who recently travelled to high-risk areas, they’ll be quarantined at home and monitored.
Transparency Of Information
Taiwan has never been afraid to hide information from its people and hourly public service announcements are played on every radio and television station.
With more accurate information, people will be less scared.
At the same time, people are also more knowledgeable about what they should do during this crisis.
The People Plays A Part As Well
People in Taiwan are not afraid to go to the doctors because 99% of them are covered by Taiwan’s health insurance.
Should they be isolated, their medical care, lodgings and food will be paid for by the country.
A school principal also says that “more than 95%” of parents in his school takes their children’s temperature before going out of the house.
Hand sanitisers are provided at lift lobbies and temperature taking is implemented at buildings.
Even prisoners in Taiwan are volunteering to sew masks to help with the problem of mask shortage within the country.
Because Taiwan took precautions ahead of time and displayed a never-imagined-before level of kiasu-ness, they managed to emerge from the initial Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan relatively unscathed.
You can read the 124 safety protocols that Taiwan took throughout this outbreak here.
Another reason behind such rapid response could be the fact that even before the Covid-19 outbreak happened, they were already battling against another virus, the H1N1.
Well, I’d say Singapore would do well to learn from Taiwan except…
Their Measures Sounds Familiar
If you’re thinking the Taiwan case study sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve been paying attention to what Singapore has been doing.
Similar to Taiwan, the Singapore government has been:
- Making decisions fast and implementing them decisively
- Updating the people about the status of the Covid-19 situation, regardless of whether its good news or bad news
- Ramping up health procedures ahead of time
- Providing subsidies to make sure everyone can afford the doctor
In other words, even though the Covid-19 has been declared a pandemic and Singapore’s new measures make it feel like we’re all going to die, don’t worry. We’re not.
Because one, most of them are in response to what-ifs; and two, Singapore’s rapid response is exactly what’s needed to get us through this crisis, just like how Taiwan did (and is still doing).
But, we got to do our part lah. After all, it takes two hands to clap, right?