by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
Johns Hopkins University had predicted that Taiwan would have the second most COVID-19 cases in the world, due to its close proximity to Mainland China.
But astonishingly, in spite of being only 80 miles from the coast of China with over 400,000 of its 24 million citizens working in China, as of mid-April, the country only had 400 cases of COVID-19, and only 6 deaths. And the vast majority of their 400 cases came into the country from abroad.
All of this has happened without shutting down the country with lock downs, and with almost all of its businesses continuing to operate. Is Taiwan doing something else the rest of the world is largely missing?
This question will no doubt be asked for months or even years into the future, but it is a question well worth asking, given the devastating effects to the economy that have resulted from more restrictive measures such as the United States took.
The first thing to note is that while President Trump is now looking seriously at pulling out of the World Health Organization, Taiwan was never part of it. They were not allowed to join due to the WHO’s pro-China stance.
According to the Taipei Times, Taiwan’s CDC tried to warn China and WHO on December 31, 2019 about possible human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus, while China was still denying that such transmission was possible.
That same day, Taiwan started policies to monitor travel from China to reduce the chance of having the coronvirus come into their country. They were one of the first countries to restrict travel from China at their borders.
Taiwan had bad experiences from the 2003 SARS (another coronavirus) outbreak in China, and as a result their hospitals were well supplied with equipment to handle any outbreaks. This SARS situation had reportedly taught them to have a healthy distrust in China and the World Health Organization to accurately report facts, and to have their own plan in place for future outbreaks.
But unlike the U.S. and many other countries, Taiwan did not quarantine the entire nation. They focused on quarantining travelers coming in from abroad in their own homes, while the rest of the nation went about their business, with some restrictions in place such as wearing face masks, and practicing social distancing.
It is hard to argue with their reported results so far, with so few actual cases and very few deaths. They kept the country open, and did not destroy their economy.