Not China. Taiwan shows best how to fight COVID-19

Unlike almost every country in the world, Taiwan has weathered the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic admirably well. The island is only 80 miles off the coast of mainland China and very near to where the virus originated. It also has close air connections, plus, with many daily flights to and from Wuhan. Taiwan was forced to contain the outbreak without official help from the World Health Organization and other international bodies because of China’s veto. But Taiwan has only 429 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and only six people have died from it as of 1 May 2020. And it has reported no new COVID-19 cases for 6 consecutive days.

“Already on the 31st December 2019, Taiwan sent an email to the WHO describing what we heard was happening in China and asking to send us more information to tackle a possible epidemic. There was NO reply. So we had to act on our own: firstly, the Taiwanese government immediately alerted the people of an ‘unknown pneumonia’ in China in order for them to take all precautions. Secondly, health officers started to control the health of all the passengers coming from the Wuhan area,” Ambassador Tseng said during a webinar organised by Green MEPs Jutta Paulus and Reinhard Bütikofer.

“As the first cases were recorded in the island of Taiwan, we immediately set up an emergency epidemic centre and we started a wide contact tracing activity. This strategy permitted to test the suspected cases and, avoiding a mass testing, we managed to control the virus. We believe that if China would have also started the contact tracing at the beginning of January, this would have stopped the spread of the virus,” he finally noted.

The success of the fight against the virus was led by a National Health Command Center set up following the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, outbreak in 2003, combined proactive testing, big data and new technologies. That included early screening of flights, the rapid identification and containment of potential cases, integrating its national health insurance and immigration databases, and ensuring quarantine compliance via mobile phone tracking.

Taiwan also developed a rapid screening reagent put into trial production. It is a key reagent for a rapid screening test for the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus and will be able to provide test results within just 15 minutes. Should trial production be positive, it would be available for possible mass production.

Despite these good results, Taiwan is excluded from the WHO. Taiwan is not a WHO member, because of objections from China, which claims the island as its own and deems it to have no right to membership of international bodies. The United States is rallying support to back Taiwan’s observer status in the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), leading into its annual meeting May 17-21. “Today, I want to call on all nations, including those in Europe, to support Taiwan’s participation as an observer at the World Health Assembly and other relevant United Nations venues,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday during a press conference.

“Taiwan donated a total of seven million face masks to the EU, including severely affected EU member states (Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain), the United Kingdom and Switzerland,” said the Taiwanese ambassador to the EU Tseng to The European Post., highlighting that other countries didn’t donate but sold those masks. “We are very happy if China is moved from humanitarian reasons but as far as I know, China sold many of its face masks to the countries in need,” he added.