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Disease Prevention Via Politics – Taipei Times


Until May, the international media considered Taiwan to be the country that found COVID-19. Everyone in Taiwan wore their masks, cooperated in tracing contacts, and 99.7 percent of people who were quarantined served their 14 days for the good of society.

Then everything changed.

In May, COVID-19 crept in when cargo pilots and the former president of the Lion’s Club were blown up in “tea houses”. As quickly as the virus spread, the media changed their mood.

After so much success, it was heartbreaking to see titles like “What went wrong in Singapore and Taiwan?” and “How Taiwan Failed to Prevent a Major COVID Outbreak.” No one mentioned the 250-day streak of zero local transmission anymore.

These articles state that the central government did not have a publicly declared endgame for COVID-19. The strategy was: keep wearing your mask and keep the borders as good as closed. There was no need to change if nothing got worse.

However, things have changed. The scientific community stated that vaccines are now the most effective way to prevent serious COVID-19 infections and deaths. Other developed countries struggled for herd immunity, while in Taiwan people did not know vaccinations were available.

Those who knew told their friends that the risk of blood clots wasn’t worth it. A YouGov poll in May showed Taiwan ranked second in terms of willingness to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Given the low number of cases at the time, the government was not about to fight negative public opinion.

After the outbreak in May, the public suddenly saw vaccines as necessary. In the past few months, the government has done an excellent job of obtaining and administering vaccinations. Taiwan used its ties with Japan and the United States to source millions of vaccines. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) contact tracking app and real name registration logs were able to locate and stop transmission clusters in the community.

The number of cases gradually decreased, and Taiwan hit zero on August 25. Even so, the international media remained largely silent on this latest milestone.

In the interests of international disease prevention efforts, the overseas media should investigate Taiwan’s recent COVID-19 reversal – more specifically, its low vaccination hesitation and high level of public cooperation.

The crux of the matter boils down to one thing; keep politics out of disease prevention. This point cannot be stressed enough. By and large, Taiwanese have not used this life and death question to their own advantage.

The biggest flaw is the ongoing vaccine arms race by Hon Hai Precision Industry co-founder Terry Gou (郭 台 銘). Since the early days of the May outbreak, Gou has tried to outperform the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by ordering millions of Pfizer BioNTech jabs through a Chinese distributor. On the surface, his $ 175 million donation is a generous one. On closer inspection, however, you can clearly see that two thick threads are attached.

First, Gou has latent ambitions for a second presidential candidacy as a candidate for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). By labeling the DPP as incompetent, Gou seeks support for his potential campaign, especially among young people.

Last year, a survey by the Taiwan Public Opinion Foundation found that only 6.3 percent of 20-29 year olds support KMT. Obtaining vaccines, however, probably wouldn’t make young people turn blue. The KMT must radically change its cross-strait policy to attract young voters.

Second, Gou has a personal interest in keeping his 30-year business relationship with the Chinese Communist Party strong. Hon Hai had sales of $ 16.4 billion in May. A significant portion of this comes from products made in China.

Fortunately, the government of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. procured an equal number of bumps. In doing so, the government showed that the public Gou was not a vaccination messiah. Other well-equipped institutions could also help the public.

This dampened the most serious side effect of mixing politics with disease prevention: an erosion of public confidence. While the government and Taiwan were at their most fragile, a man with political ambition tried to discredit his opponents. When Taiwan needed strength and unity, Gou tried to get vaccines in the way.

Without trust, even the best disease prevention measures or a well-planned introduction of vaccines cannot work. Like Guo, KMT legislator Alex Fai (費 鴻泰) has long assumed the government’s incompetence in the procurement and administration of vaccines. Recently, Fai has been vocal about the recent deaths being linked to Medigen jabs. He has even said that the CDC is “haunted by ghosts”.

This type of rhetoric fuels hesitation about vaccines. In a June Apple Daily report, an elderly woman said she was waiting for one of Chairman Gou’s “BioNTech vaccines”. There are probably countless older KMT supporters who have held out for months.

Fortunately, despite the handful of KMT opportunists, disease prevention efforts in Taiwan are still on track. More than 44 percent of the population were shot and the public still follows CDC protocols.

However, other countries have not been so lucky. Politics has hindered disease prevention in countries like the United States. The science behind the spread of COVID-19 is getting clearer by the day. Even so, it is more important to US politicians to collect their electorate than to keep people healthy.

Florida withholds funds from school districts that enforce mask mandates. Republican politicians in California are opposing the state’s fight against disinformation. These leaders have stated that people are allowed to “question the government, do” [their] Do your own research and make up your own mind. ”It is doubtful that listening to Alex Jones and reading Infowars constitute solid scientific research.

U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci said COVID-19 is now an epidemic of the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated segment that is “doing its own research” will have to look at the COVID-19 scenario modeling center in June. It said the US could see 60,000 new cases and 850 deaths a day by the middle of next month if people weren’t vaccinated. Thanks to the hesitant vaccination, the number of cases has reached around 175,000 per day and it’s only in early September.

In Taiwan, this research is kept to a minimum. This is because the public trusts the scientific community that dictates disease prevention policies. In blue counties like Taitung, vaccine adoption is the same as in DPP bastions like Tainan.

During the height of the local outbreak, Taitung County Commissioner shifted to CDC minutes countless times when answering questions from the press. Although Taitung hasn’t had a case since June, restrictions were eased no earlier than any other county. Local guides, both green and blue, were great examples of CDC protocol compliance. It reassures the public about a single correct course of action.

In the United States, the contagious spread of misinformation has created widespread confusion. The Association of American Medical Colleges recently wrote an article to clarify questions like: What is more effective about wearing a mask or getting vaccinated? Do I have to wear a mask if I have been vaccinated?

The article basically says wear a mask and get vaccinated. However, the Texas governor has used these questions to cast doubts about the need for masks in schools. With the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, however, there is no room for doubt. Cases are increasing in states with unclear protocols and vaccine reluctance.

Fortunately, local politicians in Taiwan have had the humility to submit consistently to the central government on disease prevention issues. Throughout the domestic outbreak, local governments have been saying that if you are eligible and wearing a mask, you should get vaccinated.

The results speak for themselves. Taiwan went from 600 cases a day to zero in about three months. The BBC and Guardian should report on Taiwan’s secret to COVID-19’s success – distancing politics from prevention.

Theodore Leshnick is a writer from Taichung.

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