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How to control the spread of the coronavirus: Lessons from Taiwan


With some 850,000 Taiwanese living and working in China, Taiwan could are one among the toughest hit when the coronavirus outbreak emerged in late December in Wuhan, a central Chinese city of 11 million people and therefore the epicentre of the outbreak.

The timing would prove devastating for China and therefore the remainder of the globe, because the outbreak began to accelerate around Lunar New Year, a time when many a lot of Chinese travel abroad or return home to determine their families.

But Taiwan, an island democracy with a population roughly the dimensions of Australia, has thus far managed to stay cases to 45 and one death, while infection rates in China have topped 80,000 and therefore the virus has mushroomed in places like Asian country, Japan, Iran and Italy.

Taiwan's success thus far in handling the infection has largely been because of its early response at a time when the virus was still poorly understood and its transmission rate still unclear.

It also relied on historic experience instead of anticipating cues from the globe Health Organization (WHO), which continues to deny Taiwan observer status for political reasons.

"Taiwan was hard hit by SARS and thereupon hard and bitter lesson Taiwan came very prepared," said Chunhuei Chi, a professor within the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University.

After the SARS epidemic, Taiwan established a central command centre for epidemics the subsequent year, keeping it some steps prior to other places in Asia before the coronavirus hit, Chi said.

The command centre made it easier for medical authorities to collect data, redistribute resources, investigate potential cases and follow informed their contact history, while they also were able to quickly isolate patients found to be carrying the virus.

Learning from SARS, Taiwan also quickly conducted health checks on passengers from Wuhan in early January, well before it had been understood that the virus could pass between humans.

'Super alert'
By the primary week of February, Taiwan began rationing surgical masks and restricting the entry of passengers with a travel history in China, while requiring a 14-day quarantine for people who had been to Macau and Hong Kong.

Hand sanitiser and fever checks became customary in many public buildings, while the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies issued daily movable alerts about the most recent cases and knowledge on the places that they had visited.

Jason Wang, the director of the middle for Policy, Outcomes and Prevention at Stanford University, said the Taiwanese government "was really super alert" in its response.

"When it became clear it had been visiting become an enormous issue they began to do more. They were prepared."

Experts said Taiwan's success is equivalent to Singapore's, where while there are now quite 100 coronavirus cases, early action has kept the illness from spreading further despite its high-risk status as a serious Asian transit hub, and robust trade ties with China and Hong Kong.

Learning from SARS, Singapore also sped to impose health checks before closing its borders in late January to most travellers from China, further as imposing heavy fines on anyone found violating self-quarantine orders. It also closed schools and universities.

Both Taiwan and Singapore also offered large stimulus packages because the economy felt the impact of the coronavirus and a loss of tourism from China.

In a piece of writing published within the News Lens, Roy Ngerng wrote that Taiwan's handling of the crisis was even "better than Singapore".

'Others slow to act'
While Taiwan and Singapore's leadership acted swiftly, other countries hit by the virus were either slower to act, or to be hospitable the general public about possible risks.

"My impression is - [although] I'm at far - that the political leadership [in Singapore and Taiwan] took this cue and advice from the ministry of health from the scientists and therefore the clinicians. i believe that's a awfully good formula," said William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University.

He said places just like the US are slow to act.

Taiwan's actions contrast sharply with China's, where decisive action came only after the outbreak had already spread widely.

Japan and Asian country have also been criticised for his or her response. Infections in both countries have now reached 1,045 and 6,767 respectively, as of Saturday.

South Korea's outbreak picked up following infections at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus megachurch in February, while Japan has seen a spike from the big group of individuals on board the Diamond Princess ocean liner, which was quarantined in Yokohama.

Virus still spreading
Critics say Japan's Shinzo Abe may are slow to retort because he was also preoccupied with preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in July and therefore the now-delayed visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in April.

South Korea's Moon Jae-in has also come under scrutiny as he downplayed the threat of coronavirus, saying that the worst perceived to be over in mid-February shortly before cases began to skyrocket.

As the coronavirus continues to spread east and west, many other countries are finding themselves unprepared to cope with the sort of large-scale epidemic that has not been seen for many years.

In Iran, political infighting and restricted access to information are cited by experts as reasons why cases have now reached 4,744, with a minimum of 124 deaths, after the virus reportedly first broke call at the Celestial City of Qom.

Narimon Safavi, an Iranian-American entrepreneur and frequent commentator on Iran, said powerful conservative clerics prevented government health authorities from quarantining the town, or halting travel there, including from China.

Top leaders and regime insiders have also continued to visit Qom, a vital political and non secular centre, Safavi said, spreading the virus even among the Iranian elite, including Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi and an adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei.

Dilemma in Europe
In Italy, authorities were forced to scramble because the coronavirus spread rapidly across its northern towns. there have been a minimum of 4,646 cases and 197 deaths in Italy as of Saturday.

Europe's Schengen Treaty, however, presents several challenges to EU health authorities, because it guarantees the free movement of individuals, per Claire Standley, an assistant research professor at Georgetown University's Center for Global Health Science and Security.

Matthew Kavanagh, also a world health expert at Georgetown University, added that several world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, have repeated the mistakes of their Asian counterparts.

"We had a chance to essentially robustly get out there rather than that specialize in the likelihood there was an endemic within the US. Instead, Trump focused on a policy that was purely containment - keeping it out of the US through travel bans and quarantine," Kavanagh said.

Delayed action from the US and far of Europe means effective but laborious options that were available to Taiwan and Singapore, like isolating anyone in touch with the virus, aren't any longer available because it's already spreading within the community.

The US Congress's emergency $8.3bn coronavirus fund will must head to initiatives like rapid testing to assess how far the virus has already spread, public information campaigns, and offsetting economic losses as large scale gatherings and events are cancelled.

'Community spread is happening'
"At now in China, in Italy, in Asian country and within the US, we are entering into an area where community spread is going on, which implies you cannot quarantine all the people, you cannot stop things through a travel ban," Kavanagh said.

As new challenges from the coronavirus still emerge and community infections root, political leaders who have struggled to act quickly to contain the virus could face more trouble ahead.

In Asian country, quite 1.5 million people have signed a petition calling for Moon to resign, while approval ratings for Japan's Abe fell eight points to 41 percent in February - the steepest decline in nearly two years - per Kyodo news organization.

US President Trump, who has faced several concurrent political scandals, could also face more serious questions on his handling of the crisis, threatening his bid for a second term in November.

Commentators say even Iran's seemingly impenetrable leadership is vulnerable, while China's all-powerful party has also been forced to permit some public criticism over its handling of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen, who was re-elected by a landslide in January, may find that while the island remains isolated from the WHO, her position may emerge even stronger.

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