02 May, 2020
10 Min Read
Taiwan’s coronavirus protocol shows how it is done
By, Dr. Chen Shih-chung is Minister of Health and Welfare, Taiwan
Pandemics can spread rapidly around the world because of the ease of international transportation.
The most salient examples are the Spanish flu of 1918, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003, and the H1N1 influenza of 2009.
Intermittently, serious regional epidemics, such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012, Ebola in West Africa in 2014, and the Zika virus in Central and South America in 2015-16, have also reared their heads.
Today, a novel form of pneumonia that first emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019 and has since been classified as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused a global pandemic.
As of April 8, 2020, World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows that 1.35 million people had been confirmed as having the disease.
Taiwan’s strategy (Early Implementation and Quick response)
In the 17 years since it was hit hard by the SARS outbreak.
As a result, when information concerning a novel pneumonia outbreak was first confirmed on December 31, 2019, Taiwan began implementing onboard quarantine of direct flights from Wuhan that same day.
On January 2, 2020, Taiwan established a response team for the disease and activated the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on January 20 as a level 3 government entity, upgrading it to level 2 and level 1 on January 23 and February 27, respectively.
The CECC is able to effectively integrate resources from various ministries and invest itself fully in the containment of the epidemic.
In response to the threat of the COVID-19 epidemic, Taiwan has implemented dynamic plans concerning border quarantine measures, including onboard quarantine, fever screening, health declarations, and a 14-day home quarantine for passengers arriving from nations it has listed under the Level 3 Warning.
Taiwan has increased its laboratory testing capacity, expanded the scope of its surveillance and inspections based on trends of the COVID-19 epidemic, and retested people with higher risk who had already tested negative, including patients with symptoms of severe influenza, community cases with upper respiratory tract infections who were already being monitored, and cluster cases of upper respiratory tract infections, to identify suspected cases and perform treatment in isolation wards.
Meanwhile, it has designated 50 regional hospitals and medical centres and 167 community hospitals and clinics to create a tiered system for testing. These hospitals and clinics are required to set up special wards or areas; in principle, COVID-19 patients are isolated and treated individually in these wards and areas to prevent nosocomial infections.
Moreover, Taiwan has banned the export of surgical masks since January 24, requisitioned masks, and expanded domestic mask production to more effectively allocate masks.
Despite its proximity to China, Taiwan ranked 123 among 183 countries in terms of confirmed cases per million people. This has shown that Taiwan’s aggressive efforts to control the epidemic are working.
Taiwan has established an electronic system for entry quarantine, which allows passengers with a local mobile phone number to fill in health information using a mobile phone.
A health declaration pass will then be sent to them as a text message.
This is connected to the community care support management system, which allows government agencies to provide care services and medical assistance.
The travel history of individuals is now stored on the National Health Insurance (NHI) card to alert physicians to possible cases and prevent community transmission.
For those undergoing home quarantine or isolation, the government is working with telecom operators to allow GPS tracking of their locations.
Quarantine offenders are subject to fines or mandatory placement according to relevant laws and regulations, so as to prevent transmission.
Taiwan launched a name-based rationing system for mask purchases at NHI-contracted pharmacies and local public health agencies.
It added an ordering system for masks .This allows people to order online and pick up masks at convenience stores.
These measures have helped us achieve effective allocation of limited resources and meet health-care, epidemic prevention, household, and industrial needs.
Global linking and beyond
Global health security requires the efforts of every person to ensure an optimal response to public health threats and challenges. Taiwan, though not a member of WHO, cannot stand alone and must be included in the fight against such threats and challenges.
Taiwan has fulfilled its responsibilities and abided by the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR 2005) in notifying WHO of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Moreover, Taiwan has communicated with other countries such as Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States, Canada, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and the Netherlands, as well as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, to share information on confirmed cases, travel and contact histories of patients, and border control measures.
Taiwan has uploaded the genetic sequence of COVID-19 to the GISAID Initiative, or the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).
We urge WHO and related parties to acknowledge Taiwan’s long-standing contributions to the international community in the areas of public health, disease prevention, and the human right to health, and to include Taiwan in WHO and its meetings, mechanisms, and activities.
Echoing the mantra of the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, no one should be left behind.
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