One step ahead
THE WEEK|May 03, 2020
A proactive system developed after the 2003 SARS outbreak helped Taiwan prepare for Covid-19
GAURAV PANDE/ Taipei

ONCE BITTEN BADLY, twice shy. Learning from the past has paid rich dividends for Taiwan in its war on Covid-19. Taiwan is only 130km from China and more than 80,000 people travel between the two countries every month. It was no surprise that Johns Hopkins University predicted that Taiwan would have the world’s second most Covid-19 cases.

But Taiwan has emerged one of the most efficient countries in terms of Covid-19 treatment, with just 425 cases and six deaths among a population of 23.7 million. On April 14, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that for the first time in 36 days there was no new case to report. A few cases have cropped up since then, but still within control.

Taiwan had warned the World Health Organization in late December about Covid-19. But it says the warning was ignored. The WHO does not recognise Taiwan because of objections from China, which says the island is a breakaway province. Taiwan’s already fraught ties with the WHO worsened further with the Covid-19 crisis. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus complained recently that Taiwan’s foreign ministry was linked to a hate campaign against him, which included racist attacks and death threats. Tedros, a former Ethiopian health and foreign minister who was elected to the top post with strong support from China, has strongly endorsed the Chinese position on the pandemic. It has led to a geopolitical tussle, with US President Donald Trump repeatedly blaming China for the pandemic. Trump has suspended US funding to WHO and has blamed the world body for ignoring Taiwan’s early warning about Covid-19.

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