Taiwan is China’s nearest neighbor (or is part of China, depending on who you talk to), yet its coronavirus numbers are among the lowest in the world. Just five people have died since the outbreak, a tenth of the rate China is reporting, when comparing population size.
This is a guest column by a Taiwanese national, who has asked to remain anonymous. The views and opinions expressed here do not represent those of TooFab or its editors. It is solely the experience and observations of its author. This article is not intended to provide medical advice nor should it be used to inform decisions about your health. If you have questions please visit the websites for the CDC and WHO.
I am at home — and we are not scared.
Life is normal here, schools are open and work carries on. We feel good because people are cooperating and listening to the government.
I still meet with my family to have meals, and I still go out. We only had one case in my county of Chiayi, and they were quickly quarantined, and that case was from traveling. So we are not scared to go out.
All of my Taiwanese friends are going about business as usual, no local businesses are closed.
We still go to church. The Government has a restriction on gatherings of over 100 people, so we also have online church.
There has been no panic buying. They only thing that was restricted was the purchasing of masks early on to prevent stockpiling: three masks a week per person. However it has always been pretty common for people here to wear masks and gloves when in crowded places.
They spray your hands when you go to shopping center and there are temperature scanners at shopping centers where they check people: If your temperature is high they won’t let you in.
Children’s temperatures are also taken at school and parents are supposed to check them at home so they can stop them from going to school if they have high temperature. We are also doing this at our small church.
The main difference between Taiwan and the rest of the world is Taiwan didn’t trust the info from China — because they never tell you the truth. So we started to apply all the rules necessary to stop the spread before anyone else.
We were aware of the outbreak in late December. Taiwan immediately restricted travel to and from China and requested all tourists from China to leave the island.
Our government notified the WHO in January, and reported to them how the coronavirus can spread from person to person, but they would not share this information with other countries as they listen to China — therefore it is spreading the way it is today.
All new cases that have occurred in recent weeks have been from students and Taiwanese residents returning to Taiwan from other countries; the Government has now stopped all non-Taiwanese residents entering Taiwan. People had been fleeing here from the US and Europe because it is a safer place.
Anyone traveling into the island from international countries is put on mandatory two week quarantine. The quarantine only applies to people who enter Taiwan during this period; we are happy to welcome people here as long as they obey the law, otherwise they should not come. Almost all of our cases were imported.
Law enforcement can check on you at random and if you were not at home, you can be fined up to $10k. There was a man who went partying recently and was fined about $30k.
You get a care package and daily stipend (1000NT dollars, about $33 USD) while in quarantine, and if you do not have anyone to bring you groceries, city officials will bring food to you.
I read a BBC article about a person studying overseas, who returned to Taiwan and was placed in quarantine; his phone ran out of battery for 15 minutes and the police came to check on him to make sure he was home — that’s how seriously we are taking quarantine.
After SARS, the people of Taiwan prefer obeying the law over dying. Support for the ruling party has swelled a lot thanks to their response to the outbreak.
The Taiwanese people realize this is like war time; it’s different here because of the constant threat from China.
During the SARS outbreak, the WHO shut Taiwan out and would not give the country any help because they bow to China, and so this little island has had to come up with a way of protecting its own people.
Last week the Deputy Prime Minister of Japan said the WHO should change its name to the CHO — China Health Organisation — while a petition calling for the resignation of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has reached 670,000 signatures.
And I am not surprised.