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Taiwan’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Kimberly Krol Inlander

May 15, 2020

Taiwan. Photo: Xing Zhu | Dreamstime.com

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Located just 81 miles off the coast of Mainland China, according to an IEEE Spectrum article, Taiwan was originally predicted to have the second-highest risk of a COVID-19 outbreak at the beginning of the pandemic. To date, Taiwan has only seen 440 total cases and seven deaths and is touted by many as having won the fight against the virus. How did they do it?


The country employed the emergency implementation of big data and new technologies to mitigate the spread, putting the emergency epidemic response plan it developed after the 2003 SARS outbreak in place on Jan. 20, 2020. From the beginning, Taiwan kept detailed mapping of who got COVID-19 from who, and used its National Health Insurance Database to track 14-day travel histories and symptoms. This information was shared with hospitals, clinics and pharmacies.


Taiwan also restricted entry to those from the most-affected regions, and tracked those allowed into the country with mobile technology. Foreigners were required to scan a QR code and submit a health declaration form complete with contact information. Those placed in quarantine were issued government phones and monitored through calls and visits.


Households were grouped into wards, and a ward chief was designated to check in on those in quarantine, also with a mind toward kindness so citizens and travelers were more likely to disclose, rather than hide, symptoms and issues.


Steep penalties were introduced to those who ignored quarantine guidelines — one couple was fined $10,000 for ignoring a 14-day quarantine order. Taiwan also deployed soldiers to mask factories, set price limits and rationed supplies. Technology helped estimate a region’s supplies.


According to The Washington Post, Taiwan’s 24 million inhabitants continue to live life more normally than most of us — no lockdowns have been instituted, schools and more are open and people fill the bustling streets. While the country has won praise for its response, it continues to wait for its seat at the World Health Organization’s table. Currently sidelined from the organization at the urging of China, the United States and European allies continue to lead the call for Taiwan’s inclusion.


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