Share Taiwan’s successful experience in fighting Covid 19

Taipei Representative Office and Karoli Gaspar University of Reformed Church in Hungary co-host an on-line discussion on April 9, 2021 to share Taiwan’s successful experience in fighting Covid 19. Dr. Philip Yi-Chun Lo, Deputy Director-General of Taiwan Centers of Disease Control, gives his insights on Taiwan’s public health preparedness from SARS to Covid 19 and for future challenge. Representative Shih-chung Liu also gives his remark in the video conference.

With a population of 23 million, Taiwan has 1,050 confirmed covid cases since the outbreak of Covid 19 pandemic and 10 deaths attributed to the infectious coronavirus by April 9. And this is achieved without a lockdown. Life in Taiwan moves on almost like usual. Schools are open. Sport events and outdoor concerts take place like normal.

Dr. Lo tells the story behind today’s calmness is actually very sad experience of SARS outbreak in 2003. A hospital in Taipei City was locked down at that time. Due to lack of clear distinction between safe zones and dirty zones, transmission continued within the hospital. In total 150 people were infected with SARS and 35 of them unfortunately died. This tragic story is remembered by majority of Taiwanese people even till today.

But Taiwan learned a painful lesson from this and got itself ready for future challenges. Strong commitment was made not to repeat SARS history. This country set up information system to capture official and unofficial epidemic intelligence as quickly and as early as possible. We revised the law to enable a strong and centralized command system in the case of public health emergency. Resources were mobilized to establish a healthcare network that is able and ready to isolate and care highly contagious patients, with workers in full protection. More importantly, make clear, transparent communication a day-to-day practice, so when emergency comes, the spokesperson system is ready and the media already knew credible and familiar source to contact.

Doctors in Taiwan captured the intelligence about Wuhan coronavirus outbreak in the early morning on December 31, 2019. Some sleepless doctors saw messages posted in Taiwan’s largest web chat forum, which indicated positive results for SARS virus. Within 12 hours, Taiwan CDC moved on verification with China and World Health Organization, strengthening border control for in-coming travelers from Wuhan.

CDC later took other necessary actions to contain the transmission of the new coronavirus. Dr. Lo explained the quarantine measure imposed on in-bound travellers and close contacts of confirmed cases. Taiwan also employed innovative IT solution “Digital Fence,” a police-linked digital system to monitor quarantine compliance.

Dr. Lo emphasized in his conclusion that “No pains, no gains.” Taiwan learns from SARS mistakes and spent the past 17 years preparing for next crisis. The Taiwan story shows that the efforts and investment pays off. The key to success is, preparedness, infrastructure, political commitment, innovation, and most importantly, public trust.

Representative of Taipei Representative Office in Hungary Mr. Liu also contributed in the on-line discussion. He pointed out the key elements contributed to the “Taiwan Model” are great leadership, preventive awareness, concerted government efforts, public diligence digital management, and ward work of healthcare workers. Mr. Liu uses Taiwan’s donation of 100,000 surgical masks to Hungary last summer and Taoyuan city’s donation of 300,000 surgical masks to Budapest as examples of how Taiwan can contribute to global public health. In conclusion, he emphasized that last year Taiwan’s bid for participating World Health Assembly was supported by Prime Ministers of Japan, New Zealand, Canada, as well as many European members of parliaments and opinion leaders. Taiwan deserves a seat in WHA.