Protests in the streets, oil trading at negative numbers, rapidly spiraling unemployment, locked-down international travel and trade: I think we can all agree that by any barometer, including these, the world has failed the Wuhan flu test.
Why the world’s answer to the China flu has been so disastrously wrong, ill-thought out and ignorant to reality can be left to future post-mortems. But after spending literally trillions on public health over the decades to prevent just such an occurrence, it’s clear by now that the world’s investment in public health professionals was wasted.
We can debate whether the cost was worth it, but there is no denying that the cost has been beyond anyone’s imagining.
Some may argue that in such a crisis, experts faced a no-win situation where they had to either trade lives for the economy or the economy for lives.
To that I give a one-word answer: Taiwan.
Taiwan is the other “China”. It’s a small island off the southern coast of China, called the Republic of China (ROC). It was created as a bastion of “free” China as the Communist Party took over mainland China (PRC).
The island may be small, but the country is a regional and worldwide powerhouse. It’s the 21st largest economy in the world (19th if counting by PPP), despite having a population of just 24 million. It ranks 11th in GDP per capita, comparable to Denmark and Sweden.
It’s also an important partner with Communist China as one of the leading investors, trading partners and bankers for the PRC. Consequently, Taiwan hosts quite a bit of contact with the PRC.
That’s why the results from Taiwan in fighting China’s Wuhan flu—as they call it in Taiwan—is so extraordinary.
Worldwide there have been 321 cases of COVID-19, or Wuhan flu, per million people. In Taiwan there have been just 0.3 cases per million people for a total of 422 cases, with only six total deaths.
Equally important is that while the Taiwanese economy has been damaged by the global shutdown, their domestic economy and society has remained open.
As such, “Taiwan makes a very good case for how individualism and voluntary cooperation work effectively in resisting the coronavirus pandemic,” writes the Foundation for Economic Education, an organization that promotes getting rid of centrally-planned, expert driven economies.
Taiwan contrasts favorably for those looking for an alternative from the central planning model that Western countries seem to have imported from Communist China—the model that has ruined Western economies.
The several keys to Taiwan’s success lie in a previous failure
This is not the first virus to migrate from China to the rest of the world. SARS—another type of coronavirus-- erupted from China in 2002 and the Communists were not exactly candid with their neighbors.
“What we learned from SARS was that we need to be very skeptical with data from China,” dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Public Health, Chan Chang-chuan told the UK’s Guardian in March. “We learned very harsh lessons then and that experience is something other countries don’t have.”
So when reports surfaced in December 2019 of another corona outbreak, but Chinese authorities and the WHO assured the world that no human-to-human transmission was possible, Taiwan wasn’t buying it.
The ROC warned the WHO –- and anyone else who would listen-- about human-to-human transmission. After pressuring the Communist Chinese government, Taiwan dispatched two medical officers to Wuhan who confirmed what Taiwan already suspected: Human-to-human transmission was occurring in Wuhan.
Fortunately, Taiwan had already begun screening passengers arriving from Wuhan.
“The Centers for Disease Control,” writes RTHK, “said enhanced temperature screening had been carried out on more than 600 passengers on several flights from Wuhan since New Year's Eve.”
By February 7th Taiwan had suspended travel from China -- with the exceptions of flights originating from the air hubs of Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Chengdu.
Travelers from China were required to quarantine at home for 14 days after arriving in Taiwan.
A surveillance of fevers, combined with voluntary quarantine, and social tracing of those in close contact with those who had the virus was instituted to contain the virus rapidly.
The key, however, was in monitoring people arriving first, from infected Wuhan, and later infected China, and finally the infected world.
Setting up early monitoring and detection seems like a common-sense defense against spreading the virus.
The world just has to agree to not be fooled by the Chinese Communists again -- and next time, listen to Taiwan.