The first news about a mysterious illness in Wuhan started emerging in December 2019. Taiwan and other Asian countries were impacted by SARS in 2003 acted first. Those countries had measures built and ready and had activation on hair-triggers. China went full Wuhan containment Jan 23 and became open an on alert Jan 20.
China’s leadership was in denial for about three to five weeks. People can rightfully complain about China being in denial up to Jan 20, 2020. However, if there was not full action by other countries after Jan 23, 2020 when Wuhan was locked down then that would not be on China. How could any message be more clear than 60 million people were in lockdown?
There was a trickle of info from December 2019 to Jan 19. If countries got a play by play would they have acted earlier? All people and countries had delays as those in denial became convinced. SARS impacted countries had vastly shorter in denial periods. It did not matter what the political system in a country was. It was when did people get past denial and move to acceptance and action.
The travel shutdowns started Jan 25-Jan 31 from Asian countries and then started in February partially with some flight cancellations. Trump’s travel ban of non-US citizens from China started Feb 1.
Taiwan started inspecting plane passengers coming from Wuhan starting Dec. 31, banning Wuhan residents on Jan. 23, suspending tours to China on Jan. 25, and eventually banning all Chinese visitors on Feb. 6.
Hong Kong and Singapore started their measures on Jan 4, 2020.
Bad relations between Taiwan and China helped Taiwan. China had banned tourists from China from going to Taiwan early in 2019.
JAMA -Response to COVID-19 in Taiwan Big Data Analytics, New Technology, and Proactive Testing.
Learning from Taiwan
Taiwan has a population of 23 million. 850 000 live in China and 404 000 work in China. In 2019, 2.71 million visitors from the mainland traveled to Taiwan. Taiwan has been on constant alert and ready to act on epidemics arising from China ever since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003.
Taiwan used new technology, including QR code scanning and online reporting of travel history and health symptoms to classify travelers’ infectious risks based on-flight origin and travel history in the past 14 days. Persons with low risk (no travel to level 3 alert areas) were sent a health declaration border pass via SMS (short message service) messaging to their phones for faster immigration clearance; those with higher risk (recent travel to level 3 alert areas) were quarantined at home and tracked through their mobile phone to ensure that they remained at home during the incubation period.
Taiwan searched for patients with severe respiratory symptoms (based on information from the National Health Insurance [NHI] database) who had tested negative for influenza and retested them for COVID-19; 1 was found of 113 cases. The toll-free number 1922 served as a hotline for citizens to report suspicious symptoms or cases in themselves or others; as the disease progressed, this hotline has reached full capacity, so each major city was asked to create its own hotline as an alternative.
In 2004, the year after the SARS outbreak, the Taiwan government established the National Health Command Center (NHCC).
The government provided food, frequent health checks, and encouragement for those under quarantine.
Obviously, all countries need to have the command center, data systems and disease response of Taiwan. This will be needed now and in the months ahead. If COVID-19 is contained it will likely return as part of an annual disease season and there will be other diseases.
SOURCES- Wikipedia, JAMA
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com