The world has recognized Taiwan for its effective response to the COVID outbreak. Taiwan has had a total of 446 cases and only 7 deaths as of June 20th, and has eased social distancing restrictions. Restrictions on the total number of people allowed at social gatherings and socially distanced seating arrangements have been removed. Wearing masks in public will still be required, but eating will be allowed in most instances.
Similar to Vietnam, Taiwan focused heavily on the systematic use of its digital health infrastructure after the SARS outbreak in 2003. They used effective testing, isolation, and contact tracing to control the viral spread, and with their electronic health records, they were able to reorient toward slowing the pandemic.
Every person in Taiwan has a health card with an ID unique to them so that doctors and hospitals can access online medical records. Health providers use the cards to document care for reimbursement from the Ministry of Health, which allows the ministry regular, real-time data on visits and use of services. The health card was repurposed when COVID-19 hit to stop the spread by sending physicians alerts about patients at higher risk based on travel history. This utilization allowed for better identification of candidates for testing when supplies were limited. No other society has such an effective real-time electronic heath record system, and this is one of the main attributes of Taiwan’s success, leading to the current opening.
Taiwan has allowed masks to be purchased on the free market, after they were rationed since January when the military was tasked by the government to create them. Taiwan has since exceeded 20 million in production. Many of these masks are being donated to other countries to help their fight against the virus. Whether or not the rest of the world will learn from Taiwan’s success can only be determined by the future, but in the meantime, Taiwan’s aid during this crisis has not gone unnoticed.
Author: Camryn Thomas