Thursday, May 30, 2024

Taiwan has gone without a Covid-19 case for 200 days: Let that sink in





Taiwan has 23 million people, a figure close to Australia’s. And it hasn’t a single Covid-19 case to report in the last 200 days. That’s over six months. A spell when India breached the dam and United States and Europe have recovered and plunged again, toyed by this relentless pandemic.

On a day when the world reported half-a-million cases, Taiwan is still to report one since April 12—a lifetime ago. It isn’t to say it escaped Covid-19 altogether. It has so far suffered seven deaths out of 550 confirmed cases. Yet today it has the best result to show around the world. Made more impressive when people live in dense proximity in cheek-by-jowl apartments. Still more impressive when the word is out that it’s economy would grow while the world reels under the pandemic impact. The forecast is that it would have expanded 1.56% before 2020 is out.

What has worked for Taiwan?

Tight control on Border is one thing. Taiwan shut itself up to all non-residents in March itself. There is surveillance, symptom-based, even before travellers board flights. There are digital fence-tracking via cellular signals to make sure that the 14-day quarantine is strictly adhered to.

Then mask, mask and mask became Taiwan’s mantra. They were stockpiled early and distributed early. Most of it is domestically produced. Its exports were banned. Within months what was 2 million produced a day became 20 million units. Citizens never fell short of masks.

Sure, there was this painful experience of SARS. In 2003, when the disease hit Taiwan, the island-nation reeled as hundreds fell sick and 73 died. It was world’s third worst infection rate. The following pandemics like bird flu and influenza H1N1 also steeled them as to what was required. The citizens fell into the habit of washing hands and wearing masks.

So, as Covid-19 broke out this time, everyone though Taiwan would reel under its impact. It didn’t. Above everything else, the most important element in its remarkable success was contact-testing. This along with quarantine worked wonders for them.

Each confirmed cases were traced back to dozens who had come in contact with them. Some went up to 150 contacts. All the contacts were perforce had to undergo a 14-day quarantine. Even if they tested negative. Breaking quarantine rules invited severe punishment of fines up to $35,000.

In all, 340,000 submitted themselves to quarantine. Less than 1,000 needed to be fined. It implies that almost 100 per cent complied with the requirement. Days were sacrificed to save lives—not a bad bargain.

Life wasn’t quite testing for those in quarantine. Meal and grocery were provided to them. There were even some friendly contact via Line Bot—a robot which could chat and send texts to keep you occupied.


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