From the very moment that the Coronavirus started spreading through so many countries, it became very evident which ones were ready to fight it and which ones were still lacking the infrastructure and planning to take care of their populations. Since the end of last year, we saw, with great fear, how this disease slowly made its way to every inch of the world.
And while some countries were taken by surprise with never-seen death tolls, others handled the situation so well that they still baffle people as to how they managed to control this health crisis. One of those countries is, without a doubt, Taiwan. Everyone is wondering, how does a small island so close to the place where the virus started, managed to keep its spread rates so low? Keep reading to find out.
1. Early detection of the upcoming health crisis
Very few people know this, but Taiwan actually faced a similar situation in 2003 when the SARS virus started spreading quickly. People were dying by the minute and the hospitals were so crowded that the Government even had to have them barricaded to contain the spread. You could say that Taiwan took a hard blow back then because they weren’t ready, but they surely were aware of the risks this time.
So, when a citizen posted a warning at the end of December from a whistleblower in China of a rare SARS-like disease starting to spread, people took note and the Government took the matter seriously. The Government was able to gain precious time to set up the Central Command Epidemic Center even before the first case occurred. This was key to preventing a bigger crisis.
2. Issue a timely travel warning
From the moment it was brought to the Government’s attention; the fact that a new virus could be spreading quicker than anyone thought, a travel warning was issued – as experts say – at the right moment. This timely warning was able to alert people and prevent them from going on unnecessary trips, particularly to the highest risk countries of contagium. Taiwan’s goal was to have as little imported cases of Coronavirus as possible.
3. Tracing and testing segments of the population that were high-risk
Not only was the travel warning able to prevent people from leaving the Island, it also helped trace and test specific parts of the population using travel data to check who just returned from Wuhan and then to pay close attention to them. This tracing technology allowed the authorities to monitor the part of the population who recently travelled, and later on those people who’re considered a greater risk, such as elderly people and people with certain health conditions.
4. Boost border checks
You might think that Taiwan, being an island, would have less to worry about when it came to closing their borders and improving security, but this didn’t prevent them from boosting border checks and safety regulations. First off, the Government imposed a travel ban for any foreigner who wanted to enter the country, only allowing special cases of nationals from certain foreign countries. Each time a person entered the country they had to serve a mandatory 14-day quarantine to make sure no spread happened. Even though they had low numbers, Taiwan maintained its travel ban because, even though the we’re handling the situation well, the same cannot be said for other countries.
5. Home quarantine was set at a very early stage
Just as they took the travel ban seriously from the beginning, home quarantine was set at the earliest stage possible, insisting on the fact that fast actions are the best way to prevent the number of cases from growing quickly in the first few weeks. This point in particular might have been crucial to the success of the Taiwan Government’s fight against the Coronavirus.
The hacking community also played an active role, hand-in-hand with the Government, aiding in monitoring quarantined people using location data from their mobile phones. That way nobody was put at risk unless it was absolutely necessary. In fact, whenever a person left their quarantine zone, the Government sent over policemen to make sure the person was’t posing a risk of spreading the disease to others.
6. Strong messaging about hygiene and social distancing
From the very beginning of the pandemic, Taiwan was keen on emphasizing the benefits of wearing a facemask on many communication channels. For this country, a face mask is something that not only reminds people to properly wash their hands after getting in contact with objects and also an item that prevents them from touching their mouth.
Health experts say that when the vast majority of people start wearing a face mask, they automatically start protecting each other, not only themselves. Some sort of peer pressure only takes effect if the majority of the people wear the facemask. Social distancing was also reinforced, with the Government remarking the importance of staying home as the best way to prevent a spread in the disease.
7. Mask production grew significantly
Of course, since hygiene measurements were reinforced among the population, mask production had to meet the needs of the people. Mask production grew from 2 million to 20 million a day, and the Government evenly assigned the amount of masks from the beginning. From the very beginning a fair purchase policy was assigned so everyone would receive the amount of facemasks they need. The hacking community came up with real time “Face Mask Maps” so people could check online where the nearest points for face masks were. As the maps became more popular more volunteers came on board to offer features like voice activation for the visually impaired.
8. Effective action against rumors and conspiracy theories
At some point a rumor started that toilet paper was made from the same material as face masks, and soon after toilet rolls started to run out. In response, Taiwan came up with a memo to set straight this misinformation. They made sure the information travelled faster than conspiracy theories and rumors by using attractive materials for the population, such as memos, cartoons and funny characters.
It was essential for Taiwan’s Government to educate the people with 3 simple steps to fight fake information: to rethink what the we’re seeing, to do a proper research if they had doubts, and to break the cycle of wrongful information by stopping to share it and informing people correctly.
9. Open communication among government and citizens
The Taiwan Government realizes the importance of having open communication with their citizens and giving clear and straight instructions to ensure their safety. It has been vital to promote trust among the population and learn to listen to people’s concerns, in turn creating trust in the Government, which takes the required measurements to safeguard their people effectively and stop a national healthcare crisis unlike what has happened in many other countries.
There are many lessons we can learn from Taiwan and the way they handled the Coronavirus situation. Governments need to be more communicative about the decisions they’re making for the sake of the community, and society needs to start deliberating about data use and the way they share information and follow instructions. By the time the next wave comes this change in attitude can determine how society responds to it.