Fortress Taiwan has been breached

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.

From Bloomberg

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.

I have similar fears about South Korea, which is effectively an island as well. They’ve done a good job with masking, social distancing, contract tracing, and quarantines. They have “real” quarantines where your phone’s location is monitored and there’s random checks that you’re maintaining it. And as a result the pandemic was kept largely under control.

But even South Koreans tire of the constant vigilance of strict public health measures. And they’ve not done so well with immunizations. And cases have been rising recently.

I expect the public will accept the new clampdowns. Community pressure to comply is significant. But until their vaccinations are brought up to herd immunity level, the virus will be a continual threat.

I believe Japan is also in a similar situation.

Japan has a population of 126 million, which is 5.3 times as much as Taiwan, but have 692 k cases. They didn’t do well with most of the countermeasures and my Japanese friends are really frustrated. They still don’t do quarantining well, from what I understand.

I am so sorry to hear this. I hope your government does a better job than ours.

At 10.6 per 100,000, it puts Taiwanese case levels in the Orange Zone, where yellow is eg California, Massachusetts, New York, and orange is eg Michigan, Florida, and Pennsylvania. It’s scary that an island doing everything right can have things go so bad so fast.

Admittedly Taiwan is right on the yellow/orange border. California case levels exceeded 100 per 100K in December and January; US cases peaked at around 76 per 100K. I hope Taiwan gets this under control.

That 10.6 per 100k isn’t a daily number, that’s their total for the entire pandemic. Their highest day was a little over 300, so 1.2 per 100,000, which is really low, but a dangerous starting point if they don’t reign it in quickly. Here’s hoping that their measures work (they did a wonderful job in the beginning, so I like their chances) and they are able to keep this in check.

At least in Taiwan, people take mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing very seriously.

I’ll be surprised if this isn’t brought under control in a few weeks. Fingers crossed.

“Lion King” I confess made me LOL

Oh right. Things were going so well, I had really stopped paying much attention to Covid related things. We couldn’t go abroad, but no other real restrictions otherwise.

Now suddenly everyone is scrambling to adjust. My school had some preparations in place so we were able to make videos yesterday for the kids. I’ve taught my first online classes today.

No one really knows, which doesn’t stop anyone from speculating, but I think Taiwan has a much better chance of getting a handle on it than most other places.

Today it was announced that there were 288 local infections yesterday. The important thing is that it still isn’t blowing up yet.

They have also announced that masks must be worn all the time outside your home, including in your own car or one a scooter/motorcycle. Overkill, but that must be how you get compliance. Several hundred people were fined yesterday in Taipei and the same measures were introduced in my area today.

I’m happy that I misinterpreted the data. FTR, 1.2 per 100,000 puts them in the yellow zone, close to the 1.0 green border. Here’s hoping the lockdown is effective.

And they’re actually in the green still as the yellow zone is based on an average daily rate over 7 days, whereas their 1.2 number was a record day and they appear to be too early into this to have 7 high days, so they are below 1 for that average. It’s still scary, as this can be how it starts, but I am also hopeful that their past skills at handling this translate well into today.

I really hope that there is reprive for medical reasons from the maskwearing in Taiwan. I hate if one should wear mask when wearing it is worse than getting Covid-19.

Here in Finland Helsinki region public transport announced mandatory maskwearing for passangers and tells you about it on announcing and on screens in vehicles. But the actual press release did specify that it is not supposed to ban traveling from those who for medical reasons cannot wear masks.

I personally can wear mask for short periods, but for longer periods I get watery eyes and runny nose which everybody and their uncle mistake for covid symtoms. As I’ve had covid in April 2020, have since tested free of the virus three times and that I’ve got my first vaccine shot, I don’t wear mask in public transportation.

And I’m willing to tell why not to everyone who asks.

deleted for being in the wrong forum

The government just announced that they should give a warning first. I couldn’t tell if there is an exception or not.

Yesterday’s numbers were up from the previous day at 317, but still less than early this week.

I was out and about today. Fewer people around, 100% masks, and all stores had contact tracing records. You can either scan a QR code which sends a text message or write your contact info.

Not good news. They didn’t explain by there was a testing backlog. Obviously they are suddenly doing many more tests these days, but I would have hoped that they would have been preparing for this a lot earlier.

The contact tracing QR code works really well. I went to a couple of places today and it takes just a few seconds. You scan the QR code and it generates a text message which you then send. You show that to the person at the store and Bob’s your uncle.

It take only two clicks and less than five seconds.

Here’s the update.

On May 11, Taiwan had had a total of 1200 cases. That’s total, from the beginning on the pandemic. Then it all went to hell, the R number hit 15 on May 15th and the situation looked like it may get completely out of hand, like most other places went through. The three-day average number of infections hit 525 on May 27th and they weren’t able to process all of the tests on time. The population of Taiwan is 23.8 million so the rate was still only 2.75 per 100,000. The fear was that it would get out of hand, of course.

The central government declared a Level 3 condition nation wise, closing some entertainment venues, restricting indoor meetings to five people (not counting immediate family members) and outdoor event to 10 people. Schools closed and other similar restrictions were implemented.

Taiwan is having difficulties obtaining vaccines. There are some sort of games being played between Taiwan and China on distribution deals between the various manufacturers, with China not wanting Taiwan to be able to obtain things on their own. So far there have been very few people being vaccinated. Taiwan also is developing its own with people arguing if it’s a good idea or not. One of the two vaccines is finishing phase II trials and the other is close.

The first company will be applying for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) based on the promising results of its recombinant protein vaccine.

I hope someone who knows more about this can tell me that this means.

The schools will stay closed through the end of the school year in the beginning of July as well as the Level 3 condition.

The numbers have started to drop. The daily average is now below 300 and the R (calculated by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC)) is less than 0.7. The CECC believes that things have been reversed but are advising caution.

Japan contributed 1.4 million vaccine does which are here now. America has contributed another 750,000. Hopefully things will get going and they anticipate 60% vaccination rate by October.

After the outbreak last May, Taiwan was able to get Covid back under control and the lockdown ended last summer. All was well until the end of last month when things suddenly started going to hell again.

As of now, there have only been a little less than 32k total cases, out of a total population of 23.6 million. This is a little larger in population than Florida which has a total of 5.9 million cases.

However, it looks like the number of cases has overwhelmed the contact tracing system and it looks like they are just going to let it go. The highest number per day last year was in the 700 / day range, and yesterday it was over 1600, and today over 2300. They are predicting 10,000 a day by the end of the month and think that up to 3.5 million Taiwanese will become infected.

Fortunately, 78% are fully vaccinated, although only 53% have a booster shot.

The good news is that it looks like Taiwan will probably be able to open up again.

Further updates.

A boy in my class tested positive, so we are closed for seven days. The rules just changed from 10 days. The school closes if two or more classes need to close.

As someone who came in close contact with someone who tested positive, I needed to isolate at home for three days, then test each day for four more days. Any positive tests and I would have had to go to a testing center, such as a hospital. Fortunately, I looks like I’m ok.

Be free virus! There were 6,295 cases reported today, so it’s following the exponential growth curve beautifully. Fortunately, 99.36% are asymptomatic or mild, while only 0.29% are moderate and 0.03% are severe. Very few deaths now.

Taiwan has a good percentage of people who are vaccinated, (85%), fully vaccinated (80%) and with a booster (58%) and people are continuing to wearing masks.

The scary thing is that South Korea is even more heavily vaccinated than Taiwan but was experiencing 300,000 new cases per day as recently as a month ago. In other words, there’s no reason Taiwan can’t become that bad as well.

I will be coming back to Taiwan at some point this year and staying for a month or two, somewhere between July-December. I hope they would just drop the 7-day quarantine requirement (as long as one tests negative upon arrival) since the nation is now in such bad shape that incoming negative-testing travelers are really no meaningful threat any longer. Plus, I am triple-vaxxed.

Unless there is a shutdown, then it will continue to go up, up up. I think several hundred thousand cases a day is a real possibility.

They may have to change how they handle schools because classes will continue to get shut down. All of the local elementary schools have been shut down.

They are talking about eliminating the quarantine requirement for people coming from countries which similar percentages of cases. They are on track for opening up more and more, but I don’t know if that will happen this year.

There are calls to reduce the number of days in quarantine to match that of people who were in contact with someone who has covid.

I missed yesterday’s news. People coming from overseas are still subject to 10 days of quarantine.