The government’s reaction to coronavirus is built upon changes made after SARS struck to strengthen Taiwan’s preparedness. These included the promulgation in 2004 of regulations allowing the establishment of a Central Epidemic Command Center during major public health emergencies. Such centralization of operations means the country’s agencies and ministries work cohesively and are on the same policy page.
Further improvements have been made to case monitoring, border control, disease screening and quarantine enforcement. The latter makes use of well-coordinated efforts by units governing health and civil affairs, as well as the police. Location data provided by telecom companies is employed to ensure high-risk individuals remain at home. Together, these measures form a strong community-focused disease control system that lessens the burden on public health.
Given the threat posed by coronavirus, Taiwan’s government quickly recognized additional legislation would be necessary to supplement existing statutes. On Feb. 25, the Special Act for Prevention, Relief and Revitalization Measures for Severe Pneumonia with Novel Pathogens was passed, shortly followed by second and third acts March 25 and April 2, respectively.
The legislation sets out a range of measures designed to strengthen disease prevention and control efforts, as well as support local businesses affected by the pandemic’s impact at home and abroad. These include punishments of prison time or a fine of up to NT$5 million (US$166,666) for anyone breaking quarantine, hoarding essential materials or spreading disinformation about COVID-19. Conversely, compensation of NT$1,000 (US$33) per day is available for those who comply with quarantine requirements.
Health For All
A pillar in Taiwan’s coronavirus response is its National Health Insurance (NHI) system established in 1995. The NHI delivers coverage to more than 99 percent of the country’s residents encompassing Western and traditional Chinese medicine, as well as dental, childbirth and rehab care. Such is the quality of service provided that 89.7 percent of respondents to a Ministry of Health and Welfare survey last year expressed satisfaction with the NHI, the highest approval rate to date. This is backed by the findings of online business magazine CEOWORLD, which ranked Taiwan’s health care system first among 89 countries and territories.
According to Chen, the NHI’s efficacy in tackling COVID-19 has benefited from a number of technological innovations. Chief among them is the MediCloud System, through which patients’ medical records are shared between different hospitals and clinics to give physicians up-to-date information on recent ailments, prescriptions and test results.
Big data analytics is also being utilized by combining information held by the NHI, National Immigration Agency and Taiwan Centers for Disease Control. This enables medical staffers to see when a patient has visited high-risk countries or had close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.