2007 - 2021

Tackling Coronavirus via the Taiwan Model, or Boris Boosterism: the fabled and the flatulent in public policy

Taiwan is a Pacific island located approximately 100 miles off the south-east coast of China. The population of Taiwan as of 2019 was 23.6m. As of 11th January, 2021 the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control report that Taiwan has had 851 confirmed cases of Covid-19, and 7 (seven) deaths. The UK population in 2019 was 66.8m: confirmed total cases of Covid-19 are over 3.3m; and total deaths, with Covid-19 on the death certificate, over 89,000. The comparative statistics (even allowing for differences in measurement methodologies) speak for themselves.
 
There is even an admired ‘Taiwan model’ for pandemic management; successful, proved protocols and action for tackling Covid-19, implemented by Taiwan in South East Asia since an earlier SARS outbreak, in 2003. Taiwan has systematically been preparing for this pandemic, for seventeen years. Covid-19 did not come as a surprise to the Taiwanese, and they did not allow the demolition of the Public Health structure, or the decay of established Public Health resources built up for just such an eventuality, as the British Government wantonly carried out, 2010-2020. An act of political negligence carried out irresponsibly by a Conservative and a coalition government, in the name of austerity; and which has catastrophically undermined the economy, the health, the NHS and care services, and the security of the country itself in the process.
 
Taiwan closed its borders to China from late January, 2020 and when the virus switched to Europe, Taiwan closed its borders to European travel in March, 2020. Some very cautious lifting of restrictions occurred over the summer, but many restrictions on travel remained in place throughout. As of January, 2021 an idea of the rigour of the Taiwanese approach to border control may be elicited from the UK Government website advice on instructions to travellers to Taiwan, of the entry restrictions they will find on arrival. The link is here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/taiwan/entry-requirements.  
 
The Taiwanese authorities have been executing policies similar to those that British Public Health professionals and social psychologists (like Sridhar, Pagel and Reicher among many others) in Britain have been begging is conducted here, but which the British Government have refused to bring in, until – at the very last – the alarming, fast spreading South African and Brazilian new variants of Covid appeared; and even then without a systematic or effective plan. Self-isolation, the British euphemism for quarantine in the UK is effectively a laissez-faire matter, left almost entirely at the discretion of the incoming traveller. For the avoidance of doubt, border control is a reserved matter; the Scottish Government can and do invent indirect methods to restrain travel, but it has no power over the critical factor – entry to Britain through the border access points (principally airports), and that is how Covid-19 arrived here; and continues to arrive here with British free market, laissez-faire self-isolation in operation.  
 
The British Government advice on Taiwan usefully provides the best, unbiased illustration of its own incompetence, by providing the rules the Taiwanese impose on travellers, for our own public education. It is a sobering experience, simply to read it. The results speak for themselves. For the British Government advice on Taiwan, which is an instruction leaflet how to execute self-isolation for incoming travellers, and unintentionally, even an outline of the ‘bare bones’ of pointers towards necessary, but not sufficient guidance for the close support network for your own population at home, when self-isolation is required there, see below: the matter is not left to the  discretion or resources of the individual traveller, but is a state responsibility; and by implication the Taiwanese entry requirements provide an example that speaks out against the catastrophic failure of Boris Johnson – without doubt the worst Prime Minister since Chamberlain – and his demonstrably failed government: 
 
“Entry to Taiwan
 
From 1 January 2021, foreign nationals are not permitted to enter Taiwan. The local authorities have confirmed that resident visa holders, diplomats, business passengers with special entry permits and spouses and children of Taiwanese nationals will be exempt from this restriction. Please refer to your local Taipei Representative Office for further information regarding obtaining travel exemption permissions.
 
In addition, all direct passenger flights between Taiwan and the UK will be suspended. We encourage any passengers to contact their airline if they believe they may be impacted and to monitor advice provided by the local authorities.
 
Any passengers who arrived in Taiwan between 13 and 22 December 2020 who have spent time in the UK in the previous 14 days, will be contacted by Taiwan’s CDC or the local health authority to take a COVID-19 test at the end of their quarantine period, or immediately if they have already left quarantine. There will be no charge for the test itself; however, those affected will need to pay for any related fees depending on their individual circumstances, including whether or not they are enrolled in Taiwan’s National Health Insurance scheme.
 
Since 23 December 2020, all passengers arriving directly from the UK, or those who have been in the UK in the previous 14 days, are required to have a PCR test upon arrival in Taiwan. If the test result is negative, they are then required to complete their mandatory 14 day quarantine at a designated quarantine centre. A positive test will mean hospitalisation. This applies to all nationalities and is irrespective of the purpose of travel. Upon completion of this 14 day quarantine, all passengers are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test before they are allowed to leave quarantine. An additional 7 day self-health management period is then required.
 
The Taiwanese authorities have provided the following information about the quarantine centres:
Quarantine centres are designated locations selected by the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC). Designated locations include: Government owned facilities, student dorms and hotels. 
There are currently a total of 29 quarantine centres located across northern, central and southern Taiwan.
 
Upon arrival in Taiwan, transportation will be arranged by the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
 
Costs for travellers in the UK programme will be paid for by the Taiwan authorities.
 
All travellers in the UK programme will be transferred to a Quarantine Centre designated by the CECC, and will not be able to request a specific location or room.
 
Quarantine centres provide 3 meals per day. Meals will be delivered to people’s rooms and consumed there.
 
You will not be allowed to leave your room or go into another individual’s room during this period. In a case of an emergency, all individuals must follow the instructions provided by the quarantine centre.
 
In principle, only 1 person is allowed per room. For young children under the age of 12, and individuals who may require health and medical care, one family member would be allowed to stay in the same room with this individual, however, masks must be worn at all times. Requests for exemptions will be reviewed by the quarantine centre in question.
 
Relatives are not allowed to have physical contact with any individual during quarantine; however, they would be able to deliver packages to the individual by handing this to the reception staff at the quarantine centre. This would then be passed to the individual.
 
Due to safety concerns the following items are not accepted: fresh products including fruit and vegetables, high power-consuming electronic appliances and other dangerous items such as lighters and knifes. Alcohol consumption and smoking is prohibited in the quarantine centre.
 
Room facilities: All rooms are equipped with Wi-Fi, a kettle and a television.”
 
It is remarkable that the proponents of ‘take back control’, of Brexit and of border control are so singularly incapable of controlling their own borders when there is a real and urgent need to control them; or more likely, they have simply and unconsciously revealed to the public that the government of Brexit has no interest in, and no intention to control its borders.

Comments (14)

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  1. John Learmonth says:

    The countries of the EU haven’t fared much better than the UK. Brexit has no relevance despite your best attempts to link every bad news story to our democratic decision to leave
    Taiwan is located next to a totalitarian police state with the largest army and air force in the world and is constantly on guard against any perceived threats and hence is able to impose controls on its population which would simply be impossible in the free societies of the west.
    Vietnam has had an even lower death rate (and its not in the EU!)should we therefore introduce one party communist govt?

    1. John S Warren says:

      Mr Learmonth,

      Allow me to respond by making my position on your comment clear. Your proposition appears to assume that only Communist countries can successfully fight Coronavirus; a bizarre proposition. Taiwan is not Communist, but you know that, so this is merely confused. I can only assume that, in the old navy term, you are ‘making smoke’. The Taiwan state was founded when the defeated Kuomintang, the Nationalist Party of China retreated from mainland China when Mao Ze Dong was victorious; and it established itself on the island that became Taiwan. Democratic reforms took place on the 1990s and the Taiwan President and the Legislative Yuan which is the parliament in the captial Taipei, are now directly elected (Taiwanese nationals, over 20 years and registered householders have the vote). This parliament does not follow the totalitarian uniformity typical of Communist regimes, indeed it is notably unruly. I make no claim to special knowledge of Taiwan but your explanation of why it is successful fighting coronavirus is obviously inconsistent and crassly politically motivated. Taiwan has maintained its independence from the PRC since 1949, and it has done this without formal treaty support from the US. The Taiwanese are used to their geopolitical circumstances and function very effectively. The closeness of the PRC to Taiwan in the context of Taiwan’s pandemic planning is frankly irrelevant. I make no claims to the perfection of Taiwan in the light of liberal democracy, or what you may apporve, because obviously you are on a pathetic politcal fishing expedition.

      In your desperation to prove that this is an ideological issue you overlook the fact that, like New Zealand, or other successful countries in fighting Coronavirus – Taiwan is an island. This offers huge advantages, if required, to control any state borders compared to land-locked states. Unlike Britain, but like other (liberal democratic) islands Taiwan has closed its borders, and it knows how to operate quarantine (self-isolation) in a supportive way that does not put either its own people or visitors where they cannot afford to self-isolate. They pay its people to self-isolate and provide them with close support; just as our Public Health specialists advise. The Taiwan economy to near the end of 2020 was growing at 2%pa, having been relative free from serious damage because of the swift and effective nature of the Government action; demonstrating that the safe way to recover your life and economy is to lockdown and close your borders.

      This is not about Brexit – you are betrayed by your own ideological prejudice – this is about controlling your borders; absolutely critical in this pandemic. Britain has failed dismally to control its borders; my reference to Brexit was solely to point out that controlling bordrs was what the Conservative Government promised to do. It didn’t. What makes your observation even more dismally inept, uniformed and bumbling; Priti Patel – of all people – has now confessed that the British borders should have been closed, in March 2020: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-55733357. The real point is that the Home Secretary is clealry now anxious to cut out a position for herself politically that the catastrophe that is British border control in the pandemic is nothing to do with her; not me guv! She is Home Secretary, and as she now claims she knew it was a bad mistake, she nevertheless did not resign. This is the hapless, craven politics in Britain during a pandemic. It has nothing to do with ‘freedom’; it is a matter of public responsibility, the duty of safety and security of Government; a matter of competence and integrity.

      You really aren’t very good at this. If that seems a harsh conclusion to draw from your comment that is because the disaster we are facing in Britain is self-inflicted – by our own irresponsible, inept British Government. That is unforgivable, and your support of it is unhelpful, needless and ill judged.

      1. Zoonotic Huawei says:

        If you read Mr Learmonth’s comment a little more carefully you will notice that he did not say that Taiwan is communist.

        1. John S Warren says:

          If you read my response closely enough you would see that I wrote this after the reference to it being non-communist: “Taiwan is not Communist, but you know that, so this is merely confused.” The point I was making is obvious and it goes to the coherence of his argument, or his purpose.

          Physician heal thyself.

      2. Axel P Kulit says:

        Taiwan is an Island, yes, Are you saying Britain is NOT an island?

        1. John S Warren says:

          If you really think I was arguing that Britain isn’t an island, I can only assume you didn’t read the article, or you did and I am completely wasting my time.

  2. Zoonotic Huawei says:

    What John Warren fails to mention is that Taiwan did not lockdown. It has tight control of its borders but it’s citizens can move about freely and everything is open for business. Schools shut down briefly before re-opening and I don’t think masks are mandatory.
    It ranks very low on the stringency index used to measure how severely or loosely a country reacts to COVID 19. Testing is offered but the numbers tested is far lower than most western countries. Like Sweden it has a healthy separation between health officials and politicians.
    Lastly it is not a member of the World Health Organization so didn’t get any ‘instruction ‘ from them.

    1. John S Warren says:

      Yes, I condensed the argument, although there are degrees of lockdown, as you half acknowledge. Taiwan is an island. They closed the borders sufficiently early to place a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around Taiwan. They required to do less thereafter, but that does not represent the problem Britain faced, and faces; the virus is virtually out of control in parts of Britain. The British Government response has been chaotic. The reference I made to lockdown is because it applies ‘a fortiori’ to Britain because we did not close the borders; so we require to close the borders and lockdown severely. Your reference to Sweden is scarcely to a paradigm case of successful practice. I am not sure what is the substantive point of you comment. Are you proposing that lockdown was a bad idea in Britain?

      1. Zoonotic Huawei says:

        I am proposing that lockdowns are a bad idea anywhere because the harms outweigh any positives. We recently heard that the NHS in England now has a backlog of 4.5 million people waiting for treatment but that is just the tip of the iceberg. You can find out more at collateralglobal.org.
        Sweden, like many countries, had a plan for if a pandemic happened. Most countries ditched their plan and went for lockdown, Sweden stuck to their plan.
        Their health authority was able to work without political interference and at the end of the year their crude mortality (all ages, all causes) was one of the lowest in their history. You can find excellent accounts of the Swedish COVID experience from a doctor who works in its health service, Sebastian Rushworth – sebastianrushworth.com

        1. John S Warren says:

          You confuse persistence with insight. I am following ‘The Lancet’ (22nd December, 2020), ‘COVID-19 and the Swedish enigma’. The link is below, I offer here a considered, authoritative source, better resourced than I am to pursue the detail of Sweden, especially as it is offered as a comment here on a piece on Taiwan, as what I begin to supect is now a species of ‘whataboutery’ to bolster the doubtful position you have chosen to adopt. I have now spent more time on your views than I consider is worth my time, so I will not be continuing to respond to your comments. you have had fair consideration. You can of course continue to comment, if vanity dictates. Here are the opening and closing paragraphs of The Lancet article:

          “In the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Swedish national response continues to be an outlier with cases and deaths increasing more rapidly than in its Nordic neighbours. On Dec 20, 2020, COVID-19 deaths in Sweden had reached more than 80003 or 787 deaths per 1 million population, which is 4·5 to ten times higher than its neighbours. This difference between Nordic countries cannot be explained merely by variations in national cultures, histories, population sizes and densities, immigration patterns, the routes by which the virus was first introduced, or how cases and deaths are reported. Instead, the answers to this enigma are to be found in the Swedish national COVID-19 strategy, the assumptions on which it is based, and in the governance of the health system that has enabled the strategy to continue without major course corrections.”

          “COVID-19 vaccination is expected to start in January, 2021, or possibly sooner. Sweden is likely to be able to implement a strong COVID-19 vaccination programme if it strengthens interagency coordination and decentralised collaboration, provides greater transparency and accountability, including announcing a public national vaccine strategy and monitoring system, and develops an effective communications strategy and plan. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases continue to increase and too many people are dying unnecessarily in a country without timely concerted actions to interrupt the high transmission and reduce the burden of deaths and illness.”

          1. John S Warren says:

            The link to ‘The Lancet’ article on Sweden is here: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)32750-1/fulltext

          2. Alasdair Macdonald says:

            Well done, Mr Warren, not only for the initial article but also for responding fully and forensically to the comments. Even Good Mroning Scotland this morning allowed two genuine experts to criticise strongly the conduct of the UK government in the handling of things since early 2020.

          3. John S Warren says:

            Mr MacDonald,

            I rarely respond to the kinder comments on Bella Caledonia; it is not that they are unappreciated, but I feel my time must be directed to criticism, well or ill founded; and an uneasy sense that to dwell on kind words is a little conceit: nevertheless in these tough times when (it seems to me) well founded policies are being gratuitously challenged on fairly obviously spurious, ideologically driven conceits, I confess it is well to express appreciation. My thanks, I make no pretence to certainty, but I try as best I may.

        2. Mal says:

          China, New Zealand & Australia had lockdowns that eliminated the virus. It’s not lockdowns that don’t work its Johnson’s mad, bad & stupid Tory gvernment that doesn’t work. Part of Johnson’s blundering throughout has been to have lockdowns that were too lax and released too early. He’s just opened too early yet again, opening schools & inessential retail when cases are still high!

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