France and Germany are returning as coronavirus cases hit new highs in the US, but on the other side of the world, Taiwan hit a different kind of record – more than 200 days without a locally transmitted case.
Taiwan holds the world‘s best virus record by far, hitting the 200-day landmark on Thursday. His last local case came on April 12; There was no second wave. On Friday, it reached 201 days with no local case.
What did this island of 23 million people do right? There were 553 confirmed cases with only seven deaths. Experts say closing borders early and strictly regulating travel went a long way in fighting the virus. Other factors include strict contact tracing, technology-enforced quarantine, and the widespread use of masks. In addition, Taiwan’s deadly experience with SARS has scared people into compliance.
The 200-day total without local cases received worldwide attention, including from legislators. Among them was US Senator Bernie Sanders, who tweeted the milestone and wrote, “How did you do it? You believe in science.”
There, community transmission was eliminated, said Peter Collignon, an infectious disease doctor and professor at Australian National University Medical School. Taiwan “probably had the best result in the world,” he said, adding that “it’s even more impressive” for an economy with a population about the size of Australia, with many people living in apartments close together.
In other parts of the world, the second wave is larger than the first. The US set a new daily record number of cases on Thursday that exceeded 86,000. Cases in Minnesota have risen the most since the pandemic began, while outbreaks in Texas are accelerating. France, which will be closed again from Friday, wants to limit its influence on economic activity to 15%, said Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. Germany’s new curbs begin on Monday.
Taiwan will likely be one of the few economies to grow this year. The government forecast in August that the gross domestic product will grow by 1.56% in 2020.
Still, Taiwan is not out of the woods yet. The government confirmed three more imported cases from the Philippines, the United States and Indonesia on Thursday and has recorded more than 20 imported cases in the past two weeks. Others who initially fought the virus well, such as Singapore and Japan, later peaked in some cases.
What these high-infection places can get out of Taiwan’s experience is that nothing works without tracking down and then quarantining contacts who test positive, Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s former vice president and epidemiologist, said in an interview .
As it is not easy to get people to stay in quarantine, Taiwan has taken steps to provide meal and grocery delivery, as well as friendly contact via Line Bot, a robot that creates texts and chats. There are also penalties – those who break the quarantine face fines of up to NT $ 1 million ($ 35,000).
How Taiwan reached its milestone:
Taiwan was closed to non-residents shortly after the pandemic broke out in January and has since kept control of its borders.
“Taiwan’s continued success is based on strict enforcement of border controls,” said Jason Wang, director of the Stanford University Center for Policy, Results and Prevention. This includes symptom-based monitoring before boarding flights and digital fence tracking via cellular signals to ensure compliance with a 14-day quarantine, he said.
The decision to store and centrally distribute face masks played a key role in Taiwan’s success. The government stored all domestically made face masks and banned exports at the start of the pandemic. Within four months, the companies increased production from 2 million to 20 million units per day, allowing the island to regularly ration masks for residents.
Contact tracking, quarantine
Taiwan has top-notch contact tracing – an average of 20-30 contacts are linked to each confirmed case. In extreme situations, such as an employee of a hostess club in Taipei who was infected with the virus, the government has tracked down up to 150 contacts. Then all contacts have to undergo a 14-day quarantine, even if they are negative.
So far, around 340,000 people have been in quarantine, less than 1,000 have been quarantined for violations. This means that, according to Chen, 99.7% met the requirements. “We sacrificed 340,000 people for 23 million people in exchange for normal lives for 14 days,” said Chen.
The painful lessons of past epidemics paved the way for Taiwan’s success in the fight against Covid. After experiencing SARS in 2003, when hundreds fell ill and at least 73 died, the company began building an emergency network to contain infectious diseases. This corresponds to the third highest infection rate in the world. Taiwan later saw pandemics like avian flu and H1N1 influenza. As a result, residents are very much aware of disease control habits such as hand washing and wearing masks.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)