What Can We learn About Disease From Asia?

Taiwan saw reflections of the SARS outbreak of 2003 in the recent coronavirus emergency that impacted the world. The government was unprepared for this  health issue, but it and the people of the country were ready for a second battle with the disease.

At one point in mid-March, Taiwan had only 50 cases of the coronavirus and one death attributed to COVID-19. On that same day, China had over 80,000 cases, and almost 3,200 deaths in their official tallies – and intelligence reports suggest that those figures could be twice as large.

What did this island nation (or Chinese state, depending on your perspective) do differently to contain COVID-19?

Asia Took the Disease Seriously When No One Else Was

Asian countries outside of China took the coronavirus infection rate seriously once data started trickling out of China. South Korea and Singapore followed a similar model that Taiwan implemented to keep the population safe.

These are the lessons we can learn from that early approach to saving lives.

1. Be Alert and Take Proactive Steps for Containment 

Taiwan heard that a severe pneumonia was in Wuhan. China notified the World Health Organization on December 31 that this issue was spreading through the city. That action caused Taiwan to immediately order passenger inspections for any flights arriving from the region. Then the country received permission from Beijing to put boots on the ground to investigate the issue on January 12. 

2. Have a Command Center Operating Immediately 

Taiwan activated its command center on January 20. That action allowed the island to implement a series of epidemic control measures. Over 120 items were part of the plan to protect personal health, including fund allocation and school disinfection. South Korea took the next step by tracing infections and setting up secure testing sites to limit the spread of the disease.

3. Take Immediate Action 

Taiwan banned arrivals from Wuhan only five days after the island confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus. That was earlier than any other country. Then it did the same for almost all flights from China. By limiting access to the country, travelers couldn’t spread the infection without controls in place. 

The countries that use technology to fight the virus are seeing the most success. Temperature monitors, QR code scanning of a travel history, and mandatory two-week quarantines worked to limit the spread. Then supply availability became a priority. By ensuring masks and other personal protective equipment was readily available, everyone could have what was needed to limit the spread of COVID-19.