The COVID-19 outbreak continues to spread around the globe. While governments are striving to take effective prevention measures, Taiwan is being praised by foreign media for its quick reaction and effective prevention measures.
Taiwan has fever confirmed COVID-19 cases than neighboring countries, such as South Korea and Japan.
Countries facing a rapid increase of confirmed cases are suffering not only from public panic, but also from a shortage of masks.
However, Taiwan has shown outstanding leadership by urgently taking measures to address public fear and prevent people from stocking up masks.
Besides, Taiwan already blocked the entry of people from China before the circumstances were exacerbated, and cooperated with medical experts. The government was able to take action quickly, as the National Health Command Center (NHCC), which was established during the SARS outbreak, played a critical role in successfully handling COVID-19 related issues.
The government prohibited the export of masks just four days after identifying the first confirmed case and started to install additional mask production lines.
It implemented a mask rationing system and the state-owned Chunghwa Post has been delivering 3.96 million masks per day from 24 factories to 6,515 National Health Insurance (NHI)-contracted pharmacies across the country.
As Taiwan’s COVID-19 prevention measures are clearly taking effect, the world should refer to the following prevention measures taken by the government.
Taiwan started airport inspection of passengers coming from Wuhan, China, in the initial phase of the outbreak, from Hubei Province later in January and banned the entry of Chinese people from Feb. 7. Taiwanese passengers were placed under quarantine for 14 days.
It is a policy that might have a negative effect on cross-strait relations. However, the government made the decision to protect its citizens.
South Korea and Japan did not strictly control their borders in the initial stage, which is counted as one of the causes that increased the risk of COVID-19 spread.
In 2003, Taiwan suffered from the SARS outbreak. A year later, the government established the NHCC. Within the NHCC, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) is one of the branches that coordinates with various ministries to enact policies and strategies regarding COVID-19.
It is led by Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), a physician, scientist and expert on infectious disease, and political interference is ruled out. The experience of dealing with SARS and the well-developed infrastructure of the CECC enabled a quick response to initial reports of COVID-19.
Along with a ban on mask exports, the government requested mask production factories to work around the clock and provided financial support to install additional production lines.
Taiwan provided personnel by deploying the military to mask production factories to help alleviate the shortage problem. Soldiers are also guarding the factories to prevent any attempts to smuggle products.
As the government took control of mask production and imposed a mask rationing system, which allows people to purchase a limited number of masks only at pharmacies using their NHI cards, mask-hoarding or smuggling did not happen in Taiwan.
The government purchased all the masks that were produced in Taiwan and lowered the price of masks. The original price of one mask was NT$8, which was lowered to NT$5.
That was possible because Chunghwa Post is in charge of distributing masks from 24 factories in 10 cities and counties to post offices for delivery. About 3,000 postal workers deliver masks that are to be sold at more than 6,000 locations nationwide.
Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳), the government’s digital expert, has developed an online platform that contains more than 100 maps that provide real-time information about the availability of masks across Taiwan.
Starting on Thursday last week, people can also purchase masks online.
South Korea implemented a mask rationing system similar to Taiwan’s to prevent mask-hoarding.
However, it came only after the confirmed cases there increased exponentially and more than 100 countries banned flights from South Korea.
The South Korean government only banned flights from Hubei Province, and medical experts have strongly urged the government to ban all flights from China, which has not been accepted by the government.
However, as the number of confirmed cases is drastically increasing not only in Asia, but also in European countries and the US, it is becoming more clear that the world is under the influence of COVID-19.
It is high time that governments refrain from making decisions based on political calculation, every nation should prioritize citizens’ health and take preventive measures to fight against COVID-19. The world could learn from Taiwan’s COVID-19 prevention measures.
Taiwan can help.
Amber Kim is a student in National Chengchi University’s international master’s program in Asia-Pacific studies.
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