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MBABANE – Taiwan has the capacity to help the World Health Organisation (WHO) better manage Covid-19 (coronavirus).

Responding to questions by the Times SUNDAY, the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to Eswatini said the island, which is not a member of the UN, warned that politics should not undermine collective efforts to strengthen the global’s health network.
If Taiwan were to be granted full involvement in the World Health Organisation, the embassy stated that its country would share its successful experience with the world more effectively.

It would also actively contribute to prevention and containment efforts, putting an end to the pandemic as quickly as possible. The diplomatic mission mentioned that Taipei closely cooperated with allies and like-minded partners worldwide in combating the coronavirus.

It said the country readily shared its expertise and resources, as well as strived to leave no one behind. “It also wholeheartedly believes Taiwan can help the World Health Organisation better manage the Covid-19 pandemic while realising health for all,” the Embassy of Taiwan in Mbabane said.
Dr Simon Zwane, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, said he still believed Taiwan had a depth of experience and wide ranging expertise in the field of public health.

“The global health community is missing a lot from the exclusion of Taiwan,” Dr Zwane said.
It must be said that Dr Zwane was recently called to order when he motivated for the recognition of Taiwan in United Nations (UN) forums such as WHO. He was called to order by an official from Mainland China. The Island has dispatched four doctors to assist in the containment of the virus in Eswatini, its only African ally.

It also donated E10 million and later 20 653 medical supplies.
Taiwan and the WHO have a contentious relationship. Tensions once again simmered to the surface after WHO Director General Tedro Adhanom Ghebreyesus accused Taiwan’s foreign ministry of targeting him in a “campaign of racism.”
Beijing took advantage of this diplomatic row, and accused Taiwan of ‘venomous’ attacks on WHO while using the coronavirus pandemic to ‘seek independence’. Beijing considers self-governed Taiwan to be part of Chinese territory and excludes Taipei from membership in international organisations like the WHO.

However, Taiwan’s handling of the pandemic has been cited as a success story. Other WHO members may now be more inclined to demand that the international public health body grant Taipei observer status.

Formosa, meaning the beautiful island, is another name for Taiwan. It argued that it could provide valuable input on best practices and public health strategies for other countries dealing with their own COVID-19 epidemics.

According to CNN, country after country, like a line of dominoes, has been shut down by the novel coronavirus. Despite signs the threat was making its way across the globe, there was a clear pattern of response in many parts of the world -- denial, fumbling and, eventually, lockdown.
Health analysts observed that as much of the world mulled gradually lifting lockdowns, there are still lessons to be learned from these four places that got it right.

Lessons from Taiwan (CNN)

Sitting just 180 kilometres (110 miles) off the coast of mainland China, Taiwan’s outbreak could have been disastrous. At the end of January, the island was estimated to have had the second-highest number of cases in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU). 
But Taiwan, with a population of around 24 million people, has recorded just over 390 cases and six deaths. On Wednesday, it reported no new cases at all. It’s managed to do that without implementing severe restrictions, like lockdowns, or school and nursery closures. In terms of its death toll, at least, Taiwan doesn’t even have much of a curve to flatten, more of a line with a couple of rigid steps.

Lesson 1: Be prepared

Taiwan’s preparedness came largely from some hard-learned lessons from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, which killed 181 people on the island.
As a result, the island established a specialised Central Epidemic Command Centre, which could be activated to coordinate a response in the event of an outbreak. In a sign of how Taiwan wanted to get ahead of the coronavirus, the centre was activated on January 20, a day before the island even confirmed its first infection.

Because its authority was already established, the centre was able to implement stringent measures without being slowed down by lengthy political processes. It put more than 120 action items into place within three weeks, according to a list published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). That list alone could serve as a manual on exactly what to do during an outbreak.
Lesson 2: Be quick

Taiwan’s action came well before its first Covid-19 infection was confirmed on January 21. Three weeks before, within days of China’s first reported case to the WHO, Taiwanese officials began boarding and inspecting passengers for fever and pneumonia symptoms on flights from Wuhan, the original epicentre of the virus in China. The island issued a travel alert for Wuhan on January 20, and two days later, still with just a single case, officials began updating the public in daily briefings.

A week after its first case, Taiwan began electronic monitoring of quarantined individuals via government-issued cellphones, and announced travel and entry restrictions, mostly targeting China’s Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.
Just about every day after until the end of February, the government implemented new measures to keep the virus at bay.

Taiwan had only 329 cases when it imposed strict social distancing measures on April 1. In comparison, there were already 335 deaths and more than 3 000 cases on March 20, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that pubs and restaurants were to close, and that most children would be pulled from schools and nurseries. And as the UK is not testing widely,  the true number of infections is believed to be much higher than official figures show.

Lesson 3: Test, trace and quarantine

Authorities carried out widespread testing and tracing of contacts of infected people, putting them all under quarantine. It proactively tested anyone who got off cruise ships and even retested people diagnosed with influenza or pneumonia, to make sure they hadn’t been misdiagnosed and were infected with the coronavirus.

Lesson 4: Use data and tech

A coordinated government response with full collaboration of its citizenry (was) combined with the use of big data and technology,” associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford Medicine, Jason Wang, told CNN. Wang has also studied public health policy and co-authored the JAMA report on Taiwan’s response.
Taiwan merged national health insurance data with customs and immigration databases to create real-time alerts to help identify vulnerable populations. “Having a good health data system helps with monitoring the spread of the disease and allows for its early detection.

When someone sees a physician for respiratory symptoms, the national health insurance database will have a record of it. It is easier to track clusters of outbreaks,” Wang said.

Taiwan used mandatory online reporting and check-ins for 14 days after travel restrictions. It also employed ‘digital fencing’ for close to 55 000 people in home quarantine, where alarms would sound if a quarantined person wandered too far from home.

The technical surveillance methods used in Taiwan and by other governments have raised privacy concerns from civil society groups.
Meanwhile, other countries that did well are Germany, Iceland and South Korea.

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