The photo shows the airport in Sicily when the corona virus first appeared there. Photo by TV.com
23 Feb 2021

Early detection and closed borders is how Taiwan claims to have conquered the Corona virus


"SARS was like a vaccine for our society"

Taiwan, a small island with a population of almost 24 million people, has only reported nine deaths due to Covid-19. How did such a relatively densely populated country become the best in the world at fighting the novel Corona virus? Here is the explanation, according to the Minister of Digitalisation.

This is is from a story on SVT.se about how the pandemic response started in Taiwan, published in February 23, 2021.
Photo Credit: (Above) The photo shows the Sicily airport when the corona virus first appeared there in the spring of 2020. Photo by TV.com

Philip Lo, deputy director general of Taiwan's infection control authority, had received a message from a colleague. In the early hours of New Year's Eve, as the rest of the world prepared to celebrate New Years Eve 2019-20, he surfed the Taiwanese internet forum PTT. He had found a post about seven discovered cases of SARS infection at a fish market in Wuhan, China. 

" This was something beyond a regular tip", he said at a press conference.

What followed was a quick and sharp reaction to what would prove to be the global pandemic we have all experienced during the last year.

Taiwan's results are also impressive: a total of nine people have died so far and fewer than 1,000 cases of infection have been confirmed, despite a population of almost 24 million - about twice the amount of people as Belgium, on a similar size land area.

The early warning via PTT "literally saved Taiwan", says Digitization Minister Audrey Tang at the Foreign Office. In a critical situation, precise and technically advanced measures could be launched.

"We gained at least ten days in a situation where the WHO still said that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission".


SARS in 2003 acted like a mental vaccine for the Taiwanese community

Taiwan had plenty of reason to take the early warnings of a new virus threat seriously. The country was hit very hard by the Sars outbreak in 2003 and had worked for 17 years to avoid a recurrence.

SARS was relatively limited in scope worldwide but was very deadly in Taiwan. From 668 registered patients, 181 died - a death rate more than one in four, counting confirmed cases of complicated infection.

"After the outbreak, authorities were self-critical, which affected how they acted this time around", says the Minister of Digitalisation, Audrey Tang.

"Everyone over the age of 30 understood that we could not repeat the chaos from SARS, so it acted as  a kind of vaccine for society", she claims.


Footnote: Later this spring, CTIF.org will arrange a virtual seminar on how fire services in our various member countries have responded - and changed their response - due to the global Corona Pandemic.