The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Thursday last week announced that it would reopen borders on Thursday next week and implement a “0+7” rule — no days of quarantine and seven days of “self-disease prevention.” Hong Kong — which has been grappling with its “zero COVID” policy and a mass exodus of investors suddenly said that it would on Monday be implementing a “0+3” measure, in a bid to outperform Taiwan.
However, there is still grumbling in Hong Kong’s catering industry due to ongoing restrictions, such as the 12-person limit on people dining in at the same table.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of restaurants and eateries have gone out of business. Even the century-old Lin Heung Tea House (蓮香樓) — known for its mooncakes — was not able to stay the course: It closed its doors at the beginning of August, before the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In contrast, the revenue of Taiwan’s catering industry rose at an annual rate of 43.6 percent in August — a new high. The monthly turnover from January to August also exceeded past years, increasing at an annual rate of 20.6 percent.
Hong Kong’s population is only one-third that of Taiwan’s, and yet its number of COVID-19 deaths has topped 10,000, which is nearly the same as Taiwan’s. This is enough to show that Taiwan’s pandemic prevention team actually passed with flying colors in terms of balancing economic development and pandemic prevention measures.
Even though Taiwan has been a model of how to respond to a pandemic, its achievements are on the wrong end of vicious rumor campaigns by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP). The animosity had stemmed nothing, while former minister of health and welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) resigned from his duties as head of the CECC to run in the Taipei mayoral election.
From a nonprofessional point of view, pandemic prevention must be about more than just acquiring COVID-19 vaccines. From implementing strict border controls, deploying health workers and resources nationwide to conducting research on treatments, the pandemic measures had to hit the sweet spot: strict without being overly so.
To counter China’s attempts at blocking Taiwan’s vaccine purchases, the nation was forced to develop a domestic vaccine in the interests of national security.
When local governments refused to play ball, the CECC also had to travel to provide support. In June last year, when there was a report of cluster infection at the First Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market (第一果菜批發市場) in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), Chen took Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare Victor Wang (王必勝) with him at 4am to conduct an inspection to prevent further spread, while Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) declined to join them because of “scheduled engagements.”
Chen was also responsible for giving briefings and taking questions from reporters during the CECC’s daily news conference at 2pm every day. The team had to keep close tabs on the COVID-19 pandemic around the globe with the aim of learning from others’ mistakes and experiences.
Chen and his team could not have kept it together for the past two years without sacrificing time with their families. Even Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC’s medical response division, once asked for leave to go home and do the laundry, or else he would run out of clothes.
Chen demonstrated his composure and dignity during his time as head of CECC. To protect and respect people’s privacy, he used the phrase “person-to-person contact” as a euphemism. It was also futile to link Chen to gossip.
In response to Ko laying the blame on Chen for a cluster infection and mismanagement of “A-gong Diam” (阿公店), a kind of tea house common in Wanhua District, Chen graciously swallowed the accusation and offered an apology.
In contrast, Ko’s government was accused of abusing its power by enabling relatives and friends of staff to jump the line for vaccines.
Recently, independent Taipei mayoral candidate Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) overlooked her own incompetence, calling Chen “a money swindler and murderer,” while KMT Taipei mayoral candidate Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) sued Chen for “malfeasance.”
Taiwan is one of the few places on Earth where such ludicrous things could happen.
To give themselves an edge, the KMT and the TPP’s de facto Taipei mayoral candidates have resorted to treachery, deception and acts against good conscience. If elected, could either Chiang or Huang really be an honest and reliable public servant?
Do not forget that Chiang considered it “idiotic” to sign the “never surrender pledge” because “no one would capitulate.”
However, in the eyes of the public, Chiang would not have to sign, for he is already doing China’s work by launching vicious attacks against Taiwan.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Rita Wang
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