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COVID-19 Leaders: Listen to the Women

By Shlomo  Maital 

  I’ve written this before – but now, today, with the coronavirus raging in the US and EU – it bears repeating.  Women have done far far better than men, as national leaders in the fight against the pandemic.   Question is – why? *

  * see Arwa Mahdawi, “the secret weapon in the fight against coronavirus: women”.  The Guardian, April 11 2020.

    * Tsai In-Wen, a former lawyer, Taiwan’s first female President elected in 2016, has effectively limited the pandemic in her country, from the start.

    * Jacinda Arden has virtually eliminated the coronavirus in New Zealand and won resounding re-election, with a parliamentary majority.

      * Angela Merkel,  lame-duck German Chancellor, has been a voice of calm and reason, in the face of neo-Nazi demonstrations in her country.  She is herself a scientist, and not only listens to the science but truly deeply understands it.

      * Denmark, led by PM Mette Frederiksen, and Finland, led by PM Sanna Marin, have both done well in limiting the pandemic in their countries. 

     * As of 27 September 2020, Norway has performed 1,034,670 tests and reported 13,741 confirmed cases and 274 deaths.   A senior Norwegian Institute of Public Health consultant said one of the major reasons why the mortality rate was significantly lower than in other European countries (such as Italy, Spain, the UK) was the high number of tests performed in Norway.  Erna Solberg has been Norwegian PM for over 6 years.

    *  Iceland joins Taiwan,  mong a group of countries which adopted a cooperative strategy early on in the pandemic, bringing together multiple organizations to tackle the challenges in containing COVID-19.  Katrín Jakobsdóttir is  erving as the 28th and current Prime Minister of Iceland since 2017.

    Seven brilliant women, who have led their countries to safe shores.  Concidence?  When the three biggest failures in controlling the pandemic were led by men:  Trump (US), Bolsinaro (Brazil) and Johnson (UK)? 

    I could list some speculative theories about why women have been far more successful than men in controlling the pandemic crisis. 

    But I leave it to the reader.  Because – you, dear reader, know why. 

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!…

https://www.wired.com/story/taiwan-is-beating-the-coronavirus-can-the-us-do-the-same/

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.

 

 

 

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital

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