PEI, Taiwan, and COVID-19

How has Taiwan kept its coronavirus infection rate so low?
Taiwan’s number of COVID-19 infections is currently below 50, despite the island’s proximity to the outbreak’s epicenter on mainland China. Experts say early intervention has helped stop a public health crisis.

I think this early success comes from experience and good leadership. I don’t expect this kind of success south of the border, nor despite calm rational leadership here on the Island, expect the same results locally. Which leads me to think that the safest place to be during this outbreak is near the epicentre of where it started, a reversal of my thinking, after years and years of believing that we should leave Taiwan to be closer to safer surroundings.

Sheryl and I lived through SARS in Taiwan, she was pregnant at the time, and the image that lives on in my head is the constant temperature checks wherever we went. From the time I got on the bus to work, until I was sitting at my desk, I was checked no less than 5 times by security wearing masks and gloves. The same could be said for most public places. Wearing a mask is commonplace there, and despite the medical establishment in the West stating otherwise, it was deemed an effective tool to slow the rate of infection. I always saw it as a means to keep our hands away from our face and I still have a number of N95 maks in storage here somewhere, which I suppose might be worth their weight in gold these days.

SARS changed us. Vigorous hand washing had become the norm. We always had disinfectant hand wipes, and Purell, in the car and in pocket, for the kids when we were out and about. It wasn’t just SARS. The kids would get sick all the time, in addition to the normal seasonal flu, there always seemed to be some kind of viral infection making it’s way through the schools. Doctors were a great source of information and they were frequently visited. This kind of resource is sorely lacking locally.

Social distancing is the norm here, people expect their homes to be as far from others as financially possible, personal space is expansive, and you can walk the streets of Charlottetown without meeting a soul. That wasn’t possible in Taiwan, no matter how hard you tried, and I tried often.

And yet, when I look through my photo library for photos during the period of SARS, and all the years since, I see nothing of masks or security checks, or the constant multitudes of hand disinfectant stations. I see us traveling the region, smiling faces, and generally just living our lives. Sheryl recalls that we still went about our days, went to movies, and ate at restaurants. We just remained calm, aware, and made sure we were following proper procedures.

What worries me most about this pandemic is not the virus itself but all the hysteria that surrounds it. I get the feeling that it’s not a good time to be in America, unless you are wealthy. The lack of leadership there, the delusions of people with voice everywhere, and the click bait hungry media have seemingly whipped people up into a frenzy. Why you need a years supply of toilet paper during an outbreak is beyond me, there are more pressing concerns other than a comfortable wipe.