Taiwan's COVID-19 strategy: successfully combining health priorities and democratic principles

Taiwan is a densely populated island with over 600 people per square kilometer, located less than 200 km from the Chinese mainland – and thus from the origin of the epidemic – and connected to it by constant population flowsIn 2019, on average, there were more than 180 daily flights and almost 30,000 passengers each day between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait (source: Civil Aeronautics Administration, Taiwan).. Despite these negative factors, as of 4 May 2021, 16 months after the start of the epidemic, the cumulative toll of COVID-19 in Taiwan since January 2020 was 1,153 confirmed cases, of which only about 10% were local infections, and 12 deaths in total. From January 2020 to April 2021, Taiwan did not need to impose any lockdown on its entire population or conduct a massive testing campaignJust over 500,000 tests were carried out in total during this period.. Schools were closed for a fortnight in February 2020 as a precautionary measure, in addition to the school holidays. No strong restraining measures had to be adopted on the economy during that same period, apart from temporary limitations on group meetings; but shops or restaurants were not closed, let alone offices or factories, allowing the island to enjoy a growth rate of over 3% in 2020, based on an already high levelTaiwan is the world’s 21ᵉ largest economy. Its GDP per capita ranks between that of Spain and Italy..

In mid-May 2021, a community outbreak ended this virus-free period. Taiwan then had to adopt more general measures to restrict social interactions in order to reduce the circulation of the virus, although not to the extent of strict lockdowns of the type adopted in Europe. In two months (between mid-May and mid-July 2021), the number of infections, after peaking at nearly 600 per day at the end of May, was reduced to less than 20 cases per day by end-July, and less than 10 by end-August. The number of deaths, after peaking at 28 daily deaths in early June, has been reduced to less than one daily death by end-July (on a 7-day rolling average), a level which was maintained throughout August 2021.

The total epidemic toll in Taiwan as of 1st September 2021 therefore stands at 16,001 cumulative cases since January 2020, and 836 deaths. As a share of the population, the total number of deaths in the epidemic as of 1st September 2021 stands at 35 deaths per million inhabitants, compared with 1,950 in the United Kingdom, 1,700 in France, 1,100 in Germany or, for EU countries with the lowest overall number of deaths, 185 in Finland or 444 in DenmarkThe EU average stands at close to 1,700 deaths by COVID-19 per one million population.; Taiwan's death toll is slightly lower than that of Japan (128 deaths per million inhabitants), comparable to that of South Korea (45 deaths), or Australia (40 deaths), and slightly higher than New Zealand or Singapore (respectively 5 and 9 deaths per million inhabitants)Statistics taken from: ourworldindata.org. Daily statistics expressed as a 7-day rolling average..



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