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Home / US Business / Taiwan led the world by shutting down Covid-19, now they want to do the same by reopening

Taiwan led the world by shutting down Covid-19, now they want to do the same by reopening

On the streets of the island's capital Taipei, pedestrians seem more concerned with staying out of the hot midday sun than maintaining any form of social distance. Great lines stretch along the sidewalks as people pop into popular lunch restaurants. And in nearby parks, large groups of young people train and practice dance routines.

In fact, there are few visible signs that this is 2020 and the world is in the grip of a raging pandemic.

And in Taiwan as a whole, an island with a population of about 23 million people, there have been around 500 confirmed cases and only 7 deaths since the pandemic began.

And that despite the fact that it is only 1

30 kilometers from China, the country where the virus was first discovered.

  People wearing protective masks walk past food stalls at Ningxia Night Market in Taipei, Taiwan, July 30, 2020.

The Secret to Success

One of the main reasons for Taiwan's success in containing the virus is speed.

The island's leaders were quick to act as rumors spread online about an unidentified virus in the Chinese city of Wuhan and unconfirmed reports of patients having to isolate themselves.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told CNN the fatal ] outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003 had taught them a lot. "At that time Taiwan was hit very hard, and then we started building our capacity to deal with a pandemic like this," Wu said.

"When we heard that there were some secret cases of pneumonia in China where patients were being treated in isolation, we knew it was something similar."

Even before Beijing publicly acknowledged the seriousness of the virus, Wu said Taiwan health personnel began examining passengers arriving from Wuhan, and further early travel restrictions were put in place.

As much of the world waited for more information, Taiwan activated its Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), which coordinates various ministries in an emergency, and the military was called in to increase mask and PPE. Production

These early, early responses to the outbreak in China – and the willingness to take action – were crucial in preventing the spread of the virus in Taiwan, potentially saving thousands of lives.

  A worker sprays hand sanitizer on passengers after arriving at Taoyuan Airport on March 19, 2020.

Direct flights from Wuhan, China were monitored from 31 December 2019, and all passengers underwent a health screen.

Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control announced on January 20 that it had sent two experts to Wuhan to try to "obtain more comprehensive information about the outbreak."

A day later, Taiwan confirmed its first reported case of the new coronavirus. Residents of Wuhan were banned from entering, and all passengers from China, Hong Kong and Macau were screened.

All this happened before Wuhan himself went into detention on January 23. In March, Taiwan banned all foreign nations from entering the island, except for diplomats, those with permanent visas with special entry visas.

Dr. Jason Wang, director of the Center for Policy, Results and Prevention at Stanford University, said that places like Taiwan "tend to act on the conservative side, so when it was not clear how it was spread, they said we should to wear a mask anyway, and they got it right. "

Another key to success, according to Foreign Minister Wu and experts outside: be honest about the dangers.

Wu said that they gave "daily briefings, every day and sometimes twice a day to inform the people about what was going on in a very transparent way, and the people only developed a trust in the government that dealt with this matter." [19659002] This trust according to Wu helped to ensure that masks were worn, hands washed and quarantine respected.

  Residents stand outside Hsing Tian Kong Temple on March 17, 2020 in Taipei, Taiwan.

& # 39; Life here is so surreal & # 39;

Taiwan's early response means that everyday life on the island is now very different from many places around the world where leaders were not quick to act.

Sil Chen moved to New York from her native Taiwan 16 years ago to establish a psychotherapy practice.

She believes she contracted the virus in mid-March from a client who coughed during a session. "At that time, people did not take this very seriously," Chen said.

At that time, it was also difficult to get a test in the United States, so she lived in her apartment for five weeks to avoid spreading the virus. An antibody test two months later confirmed her infection.

  Taiwan's success in fighting the coronavirus has strengthened its global status. This has upset Beijing.

"I think it was pretty mild compared to the other people I knew, but I coughed for two months … and I did not get the smell back in a month," Chen said. [19659002] Chen returned to Taipei in mid-July to visit his grandmother, who has lung cancer. After a 14-day quarantine, she took her 99-year-old grandmother out and about. "We ate at a restaurant," she said, "did group yoga with people, and I was like, wow, this is so surreal, it would not have been possible for me to bring Grandma to a public room like the rest of the world almost . "

  Students with face masks run during a sports class at Dajia Elementary School in Taipei April 29, 2020.
  Pedestrians walk with their bubble tea drinks in the Ximending shopping area of ​​Taipei, Taiwan, July 30, 2020.

Taiwan introduced a shorter quarantine for business visitors in June from countries considering the low or medium risk. This requires visitors to undergo a pre-boarding test to prove that they are negative within 72 hours of flight, then a quarantine test on day five, after which they are allowed to leave isolation and self-monitor for the next two weeks. [19659002] "They already do what I suggest for business travelers, special visas, so what's the logic in not doing it for everyone?" he asked.

Wang said that the Taiwanese government is currently considering an international travel investigation with Stanford to test shorter quarantines with more frequent testing. He said travel corridors are an important way to revive economies around the world, and want to study travelers arriving in Taiwan to check the effectiveness and practicality of shorter quarantines.

As Wang pointed out, "at some point we still have to reopen the world and even the vaccine is not 100% protected."

An earlier version of this story had the wrong first name for the director of the Center for Policy, Outputs and Prevention at Stanford University. He's Dr. Jason Wang.

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