Taiwan’s success with COVID
Bay Area residents leave the states to seek normality in Taiwan
In Taiwan, COVID-19 has had a considerably smaller effect than it has in the U.S. Taiwan has remained at approximately 550 confirmed cases with a 1.3% mortality rate, while America climbs to almost eight million cases despite the virus entering U.S. borders later than Taiwan.
During her visit to her home in Taichung, Taiwan for two months over the summer, alumnae Lauren Hu ‘20 says her time in Taiwan felt like an escape to freedom from quarantining in isolation back home in the states. Having lived there from when she was born through seventh grade and with her parents still working in Taiwan, Hu says she was happy to visit during the summer as most services, such as restaurants and the metro, were open and indoor dining was allowed.
“I was really excited because I could actually go out and do normal stuff there., During quarantine [in America,] I literally just stayed home and I didn’t see any friends or have any social interactions with other people,” Hu said. “In Taiwan, I was super free. It was like a whole different experience — all the touristy stuff was open, all the hotels were open, all the amusement parks were open –– it just felt really normal.”
Hu says Taiwan’s COVID response was highly effective, allowing the country to open up earlier and for her to reconnect with her sister, something she couldn’t do back home when the U.S. was in the beginning stages of responding to the virus. While her parents worked nine-to-five jobs, the two would go out to the mall and eat out with other friends without fear of COVID.
“I got a lot closer with my sister because we were together every day,” Hu said. “My sister found some events on Facebook, and me and her would just go to those events. There was this product design class in another city, [Taipei]. Me and her went there for two days for that class and got a certificate. It was indoors with groups, which is OK.”
Alumni Stacey Lee ‘20 also stayed in Taiwan over the summer and worked as a marketing assistant in Taipei. Because it was a hybrid position in-person and remote, Lee says COVID guidelines did not change much of her work life in Taiwan. When Lee first arrived in Taiwan at the end of April, she participated in a mandatory 14-day isolation in her mother’s home. Having already been in Taiwan on her arrival, her mother brought her food and other necessities as Lee isolated herself in her room.
“Because I’m Taiwanese, I don’t need to go to the hotel,” Lee said. “I just need to stay at home for 14 days. But they tracked me using my phone, like the GPS thing. So they don’t allow me to go out. If they detect on the GPS that I’m not at my home, they will call me. And also, they call me every morning to make sure I’m fine and make sure I measure my body temperature.”
Hu also had to self isolate for two weeks, but had gotten in trouble with CDC and local police when the GPS marked her location as outside of her house when she was in her room, making it look like she had violated rules.
“One day during those two weeks, I was in my room, and then I saw I suddenly got a text saying that I left the house and then told me to immediately go back home,” Hu said. “And I was like, ‘What the heck, I’m literally in my home.’ I just ignored it and 20 minutes later the police showed up at my house just checking if I was there. They checked my I.D. and it was really weird. They took it very seriously.”
In addition to guidelines for COVID, there were also strict rules for schools. Retired junior high art teacher Jenny Hwang, currently living in Taiwan, has been keeping up with information pertaining to school procedures. Students and teachers in Taiwan were never sent home to learn remotely, but the entire school has to isolate for two weeks if someone turns up sick.
“[Companies] have laid out a plan just in case they need to take turns to go into the office or you need to work from home,” Hwang said. “In the school system, they set up online teaching equipment and teachers are being trained just in case … Until now, probably only one kid that came back from China or [another] foreign country got infected in some way.”
Hwang attributes Taiwan’s success in keeping their cases low since January because of the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s. Because of this experience, she believes citizens and Taiwanese CDC take COVID-19 very seriously.
“[The SARS outbreak] was pretty bad,” Hwang said. “I think [the CDC] kind of prepared for something similar through the years. Every year the big hospitals and medical facilities … prepare for something like this [because] they don’t know when something will hit again.”
Hwang says a primary focus of Taiwan’s COVID response is keeping the public educated daily about social distancing measures and disinfecting practices, instead of issuing fines to people who do not follow the guidelines.
“The New York governor talked about the situation in the New York area,” Hwang said. “In Taipei, the CDC had those for many months, everyday, every afternoon, they reported cases. And I think they tried to educate the people, like even the same rule, the same basic thing, they kept on talking about [it] until people understand why you have to do [it]. So it’s [about], educating people more than enforcing or giving [them] a fine… If everybody is aware of it, then it becomes [second] nature.”
Hu says that she hopes people in America will take county and state guidelines more seriously like in Taiwan, where parks and restaurants are open and case numbers remain low.
“There’s not that many cases in Taiwan, so people aren’t really super strict on social distancing, in a way,” Hu said. “And then obviously, [in the U.S.], it’s way more serious. So it’s a lot more important for people to be cautious, to practice social distancing and stay inside.”
Taiwan’s successful COVID response has allowed its citizens to return to normalcy and has left many wondering how the situation is in other countries like the U.S.
“I don’t think [Taiwan] can imagine how other people’s lives are now,” Hwang said. “They were wondering, ‘Oh. What happened in the U.S.? Why is that? How come it is out of control?’ I have no answer for that.”