Taipei’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the most effective methods in the world. On the island of 23 million, the last reported cases of infection were localized on Easter Sunday, April 12th. As of Thursday, 553 cases have been confirmed, of which only 55 were local spreads. Seven deaths were recorded.
Taiwan does not have to enact a strict blockade. Nor did they drastically limit civil liberties as in mainland China.
Taiwan banned Wuhan residents from traveling to the island after confirming the first reported case of the novel coronavirus on January 21st. All passengers arriving from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau had to undergo inspection.
All of this happened before Wuhan was shut down on January 23rd. Until March, Taiwan banned all foreigners from entering the island, except for diplomats, residents and people with special entry visas.
However, Taiwan has advantages over Western countries.
One is geography. Since Taiwan is an island, it is easier for officials to control access through the border.
Taiwan also has experience. Taiwan has worked to increase its ability to cope with the epidemic after experiencing a fatal outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said in an interview last month.
“So when we heard that there was a case of secret pneumonia in China where patients were undergoing quarantine treatment, we knew it was a similar thing,” he said.
Authorities coordinated different ministries by activating the island’s central epidemic control center, which was established in the aftermath of the SARS. The government has also increased the production of face masks and protective equipment to ensure a steady supply of PPE.
Former Taiwanese vice president Chen Chenzen, an epidemiologist, said the blockade was not ideal. Chen also said that if a small number of cases are found, the mass screening method performed in mainland China, where millions of people are screened, is also unnecessary.
“Very careful contact tracking and very tight containment for close contact are the best ways to contain Covid-19,” he said.
CNN’s Paula Hancocks, James Griffiths, and Meenketan Jha contributed to this report.