Newswise – Both Taiwan and New Zealand have successfully eradicated COVID-19 with the world’s leading pandemic response. Taking a very proactive approach, Taiwan’s response was perhaps the most effective and least disruptive of any country, the researchers said.
In an article published in an international journal, Lancet Regional Health: West Pacific, researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand, National Taiwan University and the Taiwan Center for Disease Control, examined the pandemic response of the two island nations 9,000 kilometers apart.
The two countries stepped up highly effective responses to COVID-19 and both succeeded in eliminating community transmission in early August, even though New Zealand experienced a local outbreak in the Auckland region not long after.
Lead author of the research paper, Dr Jennifer Summers, of the University of Otago, Wellington, said the two countries used different approaches to respond to the first wave of COVID-19.
Taiwan acted very early to contain the virus, introducing air passenger health checks on the day the World Health Organization was notified of the outbreak in Wuhan on December 31, 2019.
Despite Taiwan being closer to Wuhan and its high population density, it experienced a much lower incidence rate of 20.7 cases per million compared to New Zealand at 278 per million.
“Their timely and robust response enabled Taiwan to avoid the national lockdown used in New Zealand to eliminate community transmission.”
In both countries, the COVID-19 outbreak prompted public health officials to introduce a variety of measures including contact tracing, case testing and isolation, and close contact quarantine.
Co-author Professor Michael Baker from the University of Otago, Wellington, said Taiwan benefits from having a Center for Disease Control, as well as a National Health Command Center dedicated to responding to emerging threats such as the pandemic. Due to historically low levels of public health investment, New Zealand has been forced to take a more reactive approach to the pandemic with a tight national lockdown to eliminate COVID-19 transmission while critical response capacities are rapidly developing.
“Taiwan’s pandemic response has been extensively planned, partly as a result of their experience in the SARS pandemic in 2003, and made to adapt quickly to new pathogens.
“As in many Asian countries that have experience with SARS, Taiwan has an established culture of using face masks by the public, as well as a proactive policy to support the production and distribution of masks to all residents.”
Both countries provide social and financial support during the pandemic and have universal health coverage.
The researchers list recommendations for other countries, especially high-income countries, as they continue to respond to the current pandemic and prepare for the next.
They include: establishing a national public health agency; develop flexible pandemic plans; investing in resources and infrastructure to enable rapid response to disease threats; improve workforce training, including considering field epidemiology training programs; auditing pandemic response to date; and updating public health laws to allow pandemic control measures to be implemented while balancing the need to protect rights and personal freedoms.
More detailed recommendations include the need to improve surveillance of disease outbreaks, develop effective border management policies, establish strong quarantine rules, further develop conventional and digital solutions to enable contact tracing and monitoring of quarantine and isolation and introduce effective ways to distribute face masks. and promote their use.
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