Learning From Taiwan: A Deeper Look [Clue: Democracy & Transparency]

 By Shlomo Maital

   In previous blogs, I wrote tersely about how Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong have excelled in handling the COVID-19 pandemic.

   An article in Wired.com gives more details about Taiwan’s success. A brief summary: Democracy and Transparency.

   Andrew Leonard writes: “Taiwan Is Beating the Coronavirus. Can the US Do the Same? The island nation’s government is staying ahead of the virus, but don’t ascribe it to “Confucian values.” Credit democracy and transparency. And preparedness (a detailed plan put in place after SARS in 2003).

   “AS OF WEDNESDAY, the nation of Taiwan had recorded 100 cases of Covid-19, a remarkably low number given the island’s proximity to China. Some 2.71 million mainland Chinese visited Taiwan in 2019, and as recently as January there were a dozen round trip flights between Wuhan and Taipei every week. But despite its obvious vulnerabilities, Taiwan has managed, so far, to keep well ahead of the infectious curve through a combination of early response, pervasive screening, contact tracing, comprehensive testing, and the adroit use of technology.”

   “Taiwan’s self-confidence and collective solidarity trace back to its triumphal self-liberation from its own authoritarian past, its ability to thrive in the shadow of a massive, hostile neighbor that refuses to recognize its right to chart its own path, and its track record of learning from existential threats.”

 A BBC report this morning recounts that Taiwan was hit hard by SARS in 2003. In its wake, Taiwan set up stockpiles of medical equipment and detailed contingency plans. The moment China announced the case of a strange type of pneumonia, Taiwan was ready. Incoming flights had passengers tested for fever before they left the plane.

   For political reasons, mainland China has vetoed Taiwan’s membership in the World Health Organization. As a result Taiwan has had to prepare for pandemics on its own, without WHO help. That has proved a major boon.

      Andrew Leonard continues: “The threat of SARS put Taiwan on high alert for future outbreaks, while the past record of success at meeting such challenges seems to have encouraged the public to accept socially intrusive technological interventions. (Jason Wang, a Stanford clinician who coauthored a report on Taiwan’s containment strategy, also told me via email that the government’s “special powers to integrate data and track people were only allowed during a crisis,” under the provisions of the Communicable Disease Control Act.)”

     Leonard continues to describe Taiwan’s transparency: “Taiwan’s commitment to transparency has also been critical. In the United States, the Trump administration ordered federal health authorities to treat high-level discussions on the coronavirus as classified material. In Taiwan, the government has gone to great lengths to keep citizens well informed on every aspect of the outbreak, including daily press conferences and an active presence on social media. Just one example: On March 15, Vice President Chen posted a lengthy analysis of international coronavirus “incidence and mortality rates” on Facebook that racked up 19,000 likes and 3,000 shares in just two days.”

   Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong are now battling the ‘second wave’ – COVID-19 cases of citizens who contracted it abroad and are now returning home. (Of course nations have to allow their own citizens to re-enter the country).   If only Europe and the US would open their windows, much can be learned from how Taiwan handles this ‘second wave’….because, chances are, there will also be a second wave in Europe and the US.

Thanks WIRED for making this freely available!…