We covered this in March. Taiwan should have been ravaged by the Wuhan coronavirus because of its proximity to mainland China (though Taiwan is the real China), the fact that nearly a million of its citizens live in China, and around 400,000 work there. The travel is frequent. It should have spread like a brushfire, but as of today, Taiwan only has 400 total cases with six deaths. It’s incredible, and something that maybe other nations should have taken note of to save lives.
The US has over 830,000 Wuhan coronavirus cases, most of which are in the New York City area, with more than 42,000 deaths from the disease. So, what did Taiwan do? Stanford Health Policy zeroed in on three key moves at the time, which has its roots in the 2003 SARS outbreak [emphasis mine]:
Stanford Health Policy’s Jason Wang, MD, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medicine who also has a PhD in policy analysis, credits his native Taiwan with using new technology and a robust pandemic prevention plan put into place at the 2003 SARS outbreak.
“The Taiwan government established the National Health Command Center (NHCC) after SARS and it’s become part of a disaster management center that focuses on large-outbreak
responses and acts as the operational command point for direct communications,” said Wang, a pediatrician and the director of the Center for Policy, Outcomes, and Prevention at Stanford. The NHCC also established the Central Epidemic Command Center, which was activated in early January.
“And Taiwan rapidly produced and implemented a list of at least 124 action items in the past five weeks to protect public health,” Wang said. “The policies and actions go beyond border control because they recognized that that wasn’t enough.”
Wang outlines the measures Taiwan took in the last six weeks in an article published… in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The authors note that Taiwan integrated its national health insurance database with its immigration and customs database to begin the creation of big data for analytics. That allowed them case identification by generating real-time alerts during a clinical visit based on travel history and clinical symptoms.
Taipei also used Quick Response (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 last 14 days. People who had not traveled to high-risk areas were sent a health declaration border pass via SMS for faster immigration clearance; those who had traveled to high-risk areas were quarantined at home and tracked through their mobile phones to ensure that they stayed home during the incubation period.
…Taiwan got out ahead of the epidemic by setting up a physical command center to facilitate rapid communications. The command center set the price of masks and used government funds and military personnel to increase mask production. By Jan. 20, the Taiwan CDC announced that it had a stockpile of 44 million surgical masks, 1.9 million N95 masks and 1,100 negative pressure isolation rooms.
Sounds like a plan, but the world has become more ravaged by this Wuhan scourge and has seen more of China’s hand in the politics of the World Health Organization, which carried Beijing’s water by saying there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission in January. The WHO's director-general, Tedros Adhanom, assumed his role after the Chinese bought the 2017 election. It’s no surprise that since his election, the WHO has shut out Taiwan from its assembly meetings which occurred after 2016 when Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen said her nation would more or less assert itself more. Yet, as Time noted, when China decided to politicize the WHO, it led to disastrous results. The world kowtowed to China and it's paying the price (via Time):
In 2016, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen came to power with a mandate to assert her people’s autonomy. China did not take kindly to this democratic challenge to its “One China” policy and bullied the world’s multilateral institutions into dealing only with Beijing. As a result, Taipei was denied access to a number of international fora which it was previously able to attend as an observer.
This includes the UN World Health Organization. Until 2016, Taiwan was allowed to participate in its annual assembly as a non-state actor. This is no longer the case, and for the past three years, its request for an invitation has been denied. If it wishes to participate in WHO technical working bodies made up of health experts looking at specific challenges, it must apply each time and its participation is regularly blocked. One example of this was last year when Taiwan was blocked from discussions on influenza vaccines.
Taiwan made clear that its wish to be part of these bodies was due to its practical know-how. It has been satisfied to be included as an observer. It has something to offer the global health community. Yet China muddied the waters of geopolitics and global health…
In the 21st century, almost all of our major challenges have cross-border elements to them: climate, health, trade and technology. We cannot afford geopolitical “blackholes.” We need Taiwan in the room, helping to shape the global policy with its highly educated, industrialized and high-tech expertise.
Until now, the world’s multilateral bodies have gone along with China’s pressure that Taiwan be excluded. But it has come at a cost to all of us, starting in this case, to China. Now it’s time that we tell China, there is a place for discussing geopolitics. The World Health Organization is not it.
Beijing’s reach has grown in the shadows, and maybe more of the press should’ve seen this coming without a global pandemic crashing the world economy.
In that same period, the American liberal media was peddling Trump impeachment fantasies and Russian collusion myths because they have yet to accept the results of the 2016 election. And even now, there are a few who are blaming Trump for acting too slow, disregarding the timeline concerning the US-based outbreak. There weren’t that many cases in February, which was a fact-finding month and reporters chose to ignore in their new narrative to say that this White House dithered. If Trump shutdown the economy with fewer than 500 cases, they would’ve gone ballistic. And in January, Trump closed down incoming travel from China and created the task force, with the former move being trashed by Democrats despite the fact that it saved lives. Since then, the liberal media has also done well in carrying Chinese propaganda because "orange man…bad." And while all this nonsense was going on, there was Taiwan, effectively ensuring a massive outbreak didn’t occur on the island.
Oh, and earlier this month, President Trump announced he was cutting off funding to the WHO. Tedros responded by saying we shouldn't politicize the virus (via NPR):
"Please don't politicize this virus," Tedros said in a briefing in Geneva, after he was asked about Trump's remarks. He later urged political leaders to "please quarantine politicizing COVID."
"The focus of all political parties should be to save their people," Tedros said. He added that politicizing the virus only exploits differences at the national level.
"If you want to be exploited and if you want to have many more body bags, then you [politicize the virus]," the WHO leader said. "If you don't want many more body bags, then you refrain from politicizing it."
That's just rich. I wonder how much China paid him to say that?
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