Taiwan has emerged as a beacon of light in the midst of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic. Despite being located just 130 kilometers (80 miles) away from Mainland China, Taiwan, officially the Republic of China, has managed to prevent the virus from spreading across vast sections of its society. As of the time of writing this report, the country had only 153 cases of the SARS-CoV-2 and had claimed only two lives in the state. This is vastly few compared to other countries in the region even though its population is estimated only to be 2.38 crores.
In order to manage such a feat, Taiwan has had to take drastic measures. As per a report on The Guardian, the government of Taiwan is tracking people through their phones in order to ensure that people duly observe the quarantine procedures. It was quick to enforce border controls and ban the export of surgical masks. The country had suffered significantly in the earlier SARS epidemic. Therefore, this time around, it was not taking any chances.
Taiwan was also quick to realize that the data shared by China wasn’t accurate and not reliable. “What we learned from Sars was that we need to be very sceptical with data from China,” Chan Chang-chuan, dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health, told The Guardian. He added, “We learned very harsh lessons then and that experience is something other countries don’t have.”
Despite its stellar record, Taiwan is not a part of the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the objections raised by China. The Chinese government claims Taiwan is part of its territory even though Taiwan has its own democratically elected sovereign government. Since 2017, Taiwan has not been able to attend the annual World Health Assembly and in the midst of the Wuhan Coronavirus crisis, it has been excluded from WHU emergency meetings.
The numbers for Taiwan are even more impressive considering the fact that the 18 new cases discovered on Saturday were all imported from other countries such as the USA and Britain which have thus far failed to grab hold of the virus. The imports took the numbers to 153. Thus, the threat it faces now is almost entirely from people bringing the virus to the island from abroad. However, in the midst of the global pandemic, Taiwan has shown the world that the Wuhan Coronavirus can be overcome.
Taiwan had obvious vulnerabilities. Some 2.71 million Taiwanese visited China in 2019 and even as late as January 2020, there were a dozen round trip flights between the two every week. However, due to the strained relationship between the two, Taiwan has always been wary of China and exceptionally careful about contagious diseases since the first SARS epidemic. “Do not forget that Taiwan has been under China’s threat constantly,” wrote Wang Cheng-hua, a professor of art history at Princeton, “which has raised social consciousness about collective action. When the collective will supports government, then all of the strict measures implemented by the government make sense.”
While Taiwan has fared exceptionally well, enforcing strict measures and ensuring its smooth implementation to curb the spread of the virus, numerous other countries have faulted and floundered and are now staring at a nightmare. Italy, in particular, has witnessed harrowing death rates and suffered close to 800 deaths the previous day, the highest official toll for any country yet. Iran, too, gue to its history of religious radicalism has failed to contain the virus and is suffering heavy casualties.
Pakistan appears horribly unprepared as well and in India, while the government has been fairly proactive in tackling the matter, individuals have exhibited a remarkably lax attitude in taking matters seriously and have endangered the safety of others on numerous occasions. Thus, the immense success of the Taiwanese government is a combination of both, the proactive measures implemented by the government and the awareness of its population to adhere to the norms laid down.