Taipei’s response to the coronavirus epidemic has been one of the most effective in the world. The island of 23 million people last reported a locally transmitted case on April 12, which was Easter Sunday. As of Thursday, it had confirmed 553 cases – of which only 55 were local broadcasts. Seven deaths have been reported.
Taiwan has never had a strict lockout. Nor did it resort to strict restrictions on civil liberties, as in mainland China.
Taiwan confirmed the first reported case of its novel coronavirus on January 21 and then banned Wuhan residents from traveling to the island. All travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau needed to be checked.
All of this happened on January 23, before Wuhan’s own lockout. As of March, Taiwan had banned all foreign nationals from entering the island, except for diplomats, residents and those with special entry visas.
But Taiwan has advantages over its counterpart in the West.
There is a geography – Taiwan is an island, so it’s easy for authorities to control entry and exit.
Taiwan also experienced this. After suffering a severe outbreak of acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003, Taiwan has worked to increase its capacity to deal with the epidemic, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said in an interview last month.
“So, when we heard that there were some hidden cases of pneumonia in China where patients were treated in isolation, we knew it was something like that.”
Authorities activated the island’s Central Epidemic Command Center, which was set up in view of the SARS, to coordinate the various ministries. The government has also increased production of face masks and protective equipment to ensure a steady supply of PPE.
Former Taiwanese Vice President Chen Qian-jen, who is a trained epidemiologist, said locks are not the norm. Chen also said that the types of large-scale schemes run in mainland China, where millions of people are examined when a handful of cases are detected, are also unnecessary.
“Careful contact tracing, and very close quarantines of close contacts are the best way to keep the Covid-19,” he said.
CNN’s Paula Hancocks, James Griffiths and Minketan Jha contributed to this report.