COVID-19: Lessons from Three Smart Small Asian Nations   Part 3. Taiwan 

By Shlomo Maital

    Taiwan, officially calling itself the Republic of China, is an island nation of some 23.7 million people, with GDP per capita of some $55,000 (using the adjusted exchange rate, known as Purchasing Power Parity), which reflects Taiwan’s undervalued currency.

Taiwan responded very very quickly to the COVID-19 threat, perhaps faster than anywhere:

   “Taiwan acted even faster. Like Hong Kong and Singapore, Taiwan was linked by direct flights to Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus is believed to have originated. Taiwan’s national health command center, which was set up after SARS killed 37 people, began ordering screenings of passengers from Wuhan in late December even before Beijing admitted that the coronavirus was spreading between humans.”

     “Having learned our lesson before from SARS, as soon as the outbreak began, we adopted a whole-of-government approach,” said Joseph Wu, Taiwan’s foreign minister.   By the end of January, Taiwan had suspended flights from China, despite the World Health Organization’s advising against it. The government also embraced big data, integrating its national health insurance database with its immigration and customs information to trace potential cases, said Jason Wang, the director of the Center for Policy, Outcomes and Prevention at Stanford University. When coronavirus cases were discovered on the Diamond Princess cruise ship after a stop in Taiwan, text messages were sent to every mobile phone on the island, listing each restaurant, tourist site and destination that the ship’s passengers had visited during their shore leave.”

   As of Tuesday, Taiwan had recorded 77 cases of the coronavirus, although critics worry that testing is not widespread enough. Students returned to school in late February.

   Speed. Agility. Discipline among the population. Preparedness. Anticipation. “Reading the world map correctly”.  

   This is what we learn from smart, rich, agile, disciplined small Asian nations.