Before anyone else, Taiwan took Covid seriously, and has been one of the success stories, with only 1200 cases total as of May 10, just over a week ago. While we have to wear masks, there had been very few other restrictions in our daily lives. As an island, they could control the ports of entry, and were much better at requiring a strict 14-day quarantine on arrivals for more than a year.
However, complacency crept in and they started to relax too much. Earlier, air crews faced just a five-day isolation period and then more recently only two. Apparently, the hotels designated for air crews also allowed other guests.
As of today, there are 2,533 cases on the island of 23.8 million people, so the infection rate still is low, 106 per million.
On the weekend, Level Three alert was declared for Taipei and New Taipei City, the
surrounding metropolitan area. Level Three alert means that all people must wear masks at all times when venturing out, and indoor gatherings are limited to five people, while outdoor gatherings are restricted to 10. A wide spectrum of business and public venues are to be closed, with the exception of essential services, police departments, hospitals, and government buildings.
Taipei and New Taipei City then closed all K-12 schools starting on Monday, May 17. I was teaching on the 18th when it was announced that this was extended nation-wide from the 19th through the 28, along with the Level 3 designation.
Vaccinations have been limited although now the government is scrambling to source more. Taiwan’s local vaccine could be available as early as July.
It will be interesting to see what happens. Can the government stem the tide?
Some advantages Taiwan has:
The government response is lead by the Ministry of Health and Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) not the politicians. Health Minister and CECC head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) is seen as highly trusted by the public and the administration.
Taiwan has a comprehensive contact tracing system in place.
Taiwan has quickly implemented the highest level of alert short of a lockdown, and is actively fining people who are caught without masks.
The public response has been to follow the restrictions quickly.
Taiwan is an island and quickly shut off the entry for non-resident aliens again.
All stores and other establishments are required to have customers register. They just introduced an app which will allow live registration with the goal of it taking less than 5 seconds. I’ll test it tomorrow.
The endgame is in sight, with mass vaccination sometime this summer.
The government has had more than a year to prepare. We’ll see if they used this time wisely.