Eight hundred and fifty thousand of Taiwan’s 23 million citizens reside in mainland China. Four hundred thousand work there. At its narrowest point, the Taiwan Passage between the island and the mainland is just 130 km. So, by all accounts, Taiwan should be in the midst of a major coronavirus outbreak. Instead, as of April 8, it had seen just 379 cases and five death compared to the 81,639 cases and 3326 death in China and the tens of thousands in several countries in Europe.
Though the island state is only 81 miles from mainland China, Taiwan has managed to contain what could have been an even bigger coronavirus crisis.
In an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Wang credited the government’s early and swift action, sighting that the Taiwanese government took advantage of public-health infrastructure and data analytics, affordable healthcare, and extensive educational outreach.
The early pragmatic steps taken by the Taiwanese government:
- Taiwan Quickly Implemented Extensive Screening for People Traveling From Wuhan
On December 31, Chinese officials notified the WHO that China had several cases of pneumonia. That day, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control began monitoring passengers who arrived in the country from Wuhan, monitoring passengers for symptoms.
Less than a week later, the government began monitoring people who had traveled from Wuhan since December 20.
- Taiwan Commenced Quarantine for Individuals Displaying Symptoms of COVID-19
Suspected cases were screened for 26 viruses, including SARS and MERS, Passengers displaying symptoms were quarantined at home and assessed whether medical attention at a hospital was necessary.
- Taiwanese Government Began an Early Independent Research on the Novel Coronavirus
In mid-January, Taiwan sent a team of experts on a fact-finding mission to China, with permission, of course, even though Taiwanese-Chinese relations are less than stellar.
- Taiwanese Government Started Implementing Policies to Protect Against COVID-19
By late January, Taipei had established a Central Epidemic Command Center, centralizing policy measures to protect public health. On January 26, Taiwan became the first country to ban flights from Wuhan.
- Taiwanese Government Commenced Early Distribution of Information as well as Preventive Safety Kits
By late February, Taipei had distributed nearly 6.5 million masks to primary and secondary schools, as well as after-school institutions, plus 84,000 liters of hand sanitizer and 25,000 forehead thermometers.
- Taiwan Had an Implemented Intensive Health Monitoring Through Big Data and Repeat Testing Since the Outbreak Of SARS in 2003
Taiwan’s health infrastructure, including big-data analysis, is partially the result of the 2003 SARS outbreak, which killed 73 people and stunted its economy.
After the 2003 epidemic, Taiwan put temperature monitors in airports to screen travelers for fever, a symptom of COVID-19. The government had learned its lesson.
- Taiwan Cashed-In on an Already Established And Efficient Health Insurance Scheme
Taiwan’s health-insurance system covers 99% of the population, with affordable coverage, which virtually guarantees that people don’t need to choose between their personal and financial health.
In Taiwan, You can get a free test, and if you’re forced to be isolated, during the 14 days, the government will pay for your food, lodging, and medical care.
- Taiwanese Government Ensured Easy Access to Information
To stem the crisis, the Taiwanese government required television and radio stations to broadcast hourly public-service announcements about the coronavirus, including how it spreads and how people should prevent infection.
The information sent was transparent, giving people sufficient medical knowledge about the virus, thereby alleviating their fears.
- Citizens Gave Their Utmost Cooperation in Preventing the Spread of the Virus
In turn, citizens have intensified their safety practices. More than 95% of Taiwanese parents take their child’s temperature at home and report it to the school before the children arrive. “Regardless of what the government does, people have to take responsibility for their own health.”
Public and private buildings have screened entrances for signs of fever, and apartment buildings have put hand sanitizer inside or outside elevators.
It takes an entire country to keep people safe, and Taiwan’s extensive coordination and swift action have helped stem the tide of coronavirus cases in the country.
LESSON TO BE LEARNT BY NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT FROM TAIWAN’S APPROACH IN CURTAILING THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS COVID-19
As governments around the world continue to take measures in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, there are lessons to be learned from the successes of Taiwan and in curtailing the spread of the virus.
The Nigerian government needs to:
- Expand, train, and deploy their healthcare and public health workforce
- Implement a system to find every suspected case at the community level
- Ramp up production capacity and availability of testing
- Identify, adapt, and equip facilities to treat patients
- Develop a clear plan and process to quarantine contacts
- Refocus the whole of government on suppressing and controlling COVID-19
Although many may link the low cases of coronavirus in Taiwan to the absolute distrust Taiwan has to China and her prior experience of SARS and MERS, I strongly believe that Taiwan’s pragmatic approach in curbing the spread of the virus plays a bigger role in their success.