As a second wave of the coronavirus takes hold throughout much of the world, there are some notable exceptions. Despite its close proximity to Wuhan, Taiwan has had 548 cases and only 7 deaths to date. With their quick response and widespread temperature testing, life in the country seems to have returned to normal. How have they managed this, and what lessons can the rest of the world learn?
The Legacy of the SARS epidemic
This isn’t the first time Taiwan has faced a serious coronavirus outbreak. Back in 2003, a SARS outbreak affected 29 countries, with over 8,000 cases and 774 deaths. Of those countries, Taiwan was hit particularly hard, with the highest mortality rate in the world. At the time, the response wasn’t enough; in one case, a person was sick for six days before his symptoms were recognized, potentially exposing more than 10,000 people to the disease in that time.In an effort to prevent the further spread of the virus, Taiwan put a number of measures in place that will seem familiar, including:
- isolation of patients
- contact tracing
- quarantine of contacts
- Temperature testing at airports
Although that response may have been a little too late in 2003, it would prove to be critical when COVID-19 swept the globe 17 years later.
A reliable infrastructure with temperature testing in place
When reports of a mysterious virus started to appear at the end of 2019, Taiwan was ready to act. On December 31st, the decision was made to restrict flights from Wuhan and to start screening passengers. This was all before Wuhan went into lockdown on January 23rd. Part of the reason they were able to act so quickly was that the infrastructure was already in place. After the SARS epidemic, Taiwan put in procedures to make sure they wouldn’t be caught out again. They established the National Health Command Center, which included a branch that focused on responding quickly and effectively to outbreaks. Monitors were already set up at airports for temperature testing, allowing early detection of anyone with a fever who entered the country. It wasn’t just the government that was ready to act though. Businesses were ready to cooperate with the recommendations to maintain employee and customer safety. Virtually every shop, restaurant and office were screening people’s temperature before they entered, with hand sanitizer readily available.
Will COVID-19 mean permanent temperature testing?
As people look ahead to the future, many wonder if the pandemic will mean a ‘new normal.’ While the exact changes remain to be seen, it seems inevitable that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on our actions and behaviors. Just as 9/11 changed travel and security procedures, it’s likely that many countries, businesses and individuals will embrace similar changes that will seem commonplace in a few years. Simple steps, such as health screening and temperature testing, could become a part of daily life. When we look at Taiwan, we see a country that has already embraced a new normal and benefited. With their fast reactions and monitoring systems in place, they never had to impose any lockdown measures. Most businesses have reopened, and the only things different are the frequent temperature tests and people wearing masks on the subway.
Rather than enduring multiple spikes, the COVID-19 pandemic has been little more than a blip on Taiwan’s radar. While the situation is complex, they seem to have set a good example of how to respond to an outbreak. Just as SARS meant fundamental changes for Taiwan, COVID-19 may mean changes to our daily lives. By putting the infrastructure in place now, we can protect ourselves and others now and in the future. Find out more about MyLobby’s temperature testing solutions and see how they could help your business today.