As countries in Europe report daily record highs of coronavirus cases, Taiwan has reached a record of its own as it hit 200 days without any local transmission of COVID-19 infections.
Taiwan’s Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) noted the milestone on Thursday and thanked the public for the role they played while urging people to continue to wear masks and to wash their hands often.
Since the pandemic began, Taiwan has recorded 553 cases of COVID-19 and just seven deaths. While it has stopped domestic transmission, it continues to record new cases in people arriving from abroad.
Taiwan has been pointed to as a success story in how to respond to the pandemic, especially considering its close business and tourism ties with China, where the virus first emerged late last year.
Taiwanese officials were checking passengers on flights from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus was first recorded, as early as December 31 for fever and symptoms of pneumonia, according to researchers writing in JAMA, a medical journal.
The country then swiftly moved to shut down its borders after the pandemic broke in January and enforced strict symptom-based surveillance for all arrivals, whether Taiwanese or foreign, in addition to developing a sophisticated contact-tracing system.
On January 20, the government formally initiated the Central Epidemic Command Center to coordinate the government response between different departments and branches.
Professionals with technical expertise – such as Taiwan’s former Vice President Chen Chien-jen, who is a trained epidemiologist – led the response and messaging. It generated effective communication about the importance of preventive measures while trying to prevent panic buying and price-gouging by rationing them.
Such success reflects on the economy with Taiwan’s GDP expected to grow 1.56 percent in 2020 and 3.92 percent in 2021, according to an April forecast by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS).
The island, however, is not free of coronavirus. On Thursday, the CDC reported three new imported cases, from the Philippines, the US and Indonesia, while it recorded more than 20 cases in the past two weeks coming from abroad.
Local media has also been paying close attention to reports of people who tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving Taiwan.
Authorities said on Wednesday they had received notice from Japanese and Thai health authorities that three people who had recently left the island tested positive.