As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc, several affected countries squabble in trying to "flatten the curve" in their territories.
As of press time both the US and Italy have already reached the 20,000 mark in the number of COVID-19 deaths. While China, where the coronavirus originated, has more than 3,300 deaths; but, slowly combats the spread of the virus.
In East Asia, Taiwan leads the pack in successfully combatting the coronavirus. To this date, Taiwan has six (6) recorded deaths to date. This makes Taiwan as the role model for other countries in the implementation of crisis management on infectious disease. How does Taiwan successfully combat the virus outbreak?
Lesson from the past
The Taiwanese government has learned the hard lessons from the specific strategies and plans implemented during the Severe Accurate Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2004. They have immediately executed the comprehensive forward planning in the early stage of the virus outbreak: testing was standardized, cases of transmission were comprehensively traced, suspected patients were proactively and quickly examined.
The success of the programs and guidelines set by the national government is credited to the country's effective governance. Most of the political leaders are public health experts and have individual experience in epidemic management; among them: President Tsai Ing-wen, Premier Su Tseng-chang, Vice President Chen Chien-jen, Vice President-elect William Lai, Vice Premier Chen Chi-mai and Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. Knowing the gravity of the virus outbreak, they immediately implemented early measures to contain the virus given the timing of the outbreak during the country's busiest travel season - Chinese New Year. More than 850,000 Taiwanese are residing and working in mainland China. Consequently, the government activated its Central Epidemic Command Center last January 20. The center has formulated key measures to address the health crisis - managing the supply of basic goods, relaying of timely and reliable information to the public, creating framework for localized travel advisories, rationing of face masks and hand sanitizers to its citizens by the government, among other strategies. Effectively, the centralized handling of the crisis by the national government is a good template for crisis management on virus outbreak. In fact, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada supports the observer status of Taiwan at the World Health Organization (WHO) and asks to re-invite the country to be an observer in the World Health Assembly in May.
Now that the country relatively returns to the “new normal”, Taiwan embraces the world with its mask diplomacy campaign, which was launched last April 1, by donating 10 million face masks to European countries, the United States and diplomatic allies. Taiwan has pledged 300,000 face masks to the Philippines, as disclosed in a statement released by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Manila last Monday, April 13.
Today, Taiwan has maintained an absolute minimum case considering its proximity to China. But its success rate in containing the virus is mainly attributed to the people's trust to the national government.
Thanks to the competency, expertise, and transparency of both the national and local leaders of Taiwan.