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Taiwan's Strategy for Fighting COVID-19 Published in the Blog of World-Leading Magazine The BMJ

  Since the first outbreak of COVID-19, more than 14,000,000 people have been infected across the globe, with 610,000 deaths worldwide. Every country is facing the rapid spread of the virus, unable to relax even for a second. Under the leadership of former Vice Premier Chi-Mai Chen and Minister of Health and Welfare Shih-Chung Chen, the entire world has beheld and recognized Taiwan's success fighting against COVID-19, setting as a model for other countries to follow. In a column issued on the 21st of this month, the blog of The BMJ, a world-leading academic journal, published an article entitled "What we can learn from Taiwan’s response to the covid-19 epidemic" to inform the world on how Taiwan's use of medical information technology in combination with Taiwan's comprehensive healthcare system and the government's forward-looking action plans served as a powerful tool in combating the pandemic.


  The BMJ, short for "The British Medical Journal", is the fourth most influential general medical journal in the international rankings, after NEJM, The Lancet, and JAMA. Po-Chang Lee, Director General of the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA), was deeply moved when he saw the title "What we can learn from TAIWAN..." under The BMJ Opinion edition!


  Professor Chun-huei Chi of Oregon State University, who facilitated the submission of this article, said that The BMJ Opinion is a column-blog within The BMJ that focuses on policy discourse. Thus, when our article was rejected by The BMJ, their editor suggested that we submit the article to The BMJ Opinion. The column's chief editor, Juliet, was very kind in helping us with the editing of the article.


  The article states that as of July 7, Taiwan has maintained a low number of total confirmed cases (449) and deaths (7) from COVID-19, as well as 86 consecutive days without any domestic cases. One of the crucial policies for combating COVID-19 is the bitter lessons Taiwan learned from the SARS outbreak of 2003. After SARS, Taiwan dramatically strengthened its pandemic control measures, which include developing standard operating procedures for hospitals to address highly contagious diseases. Another key policy is the use of the NHIA's medical information technology in the preparedness against and control of the pandemic, which played a vital role in the fight against COVID-19.


  Under the leadership of Tai-Yuan Chiu, the President of Taiwan Medical Association, Taiwan's medical community has been fully committed to pandemic control. Using the NHI Card and the MediCloud system developed in 2018, a real-time alert system was developed by linking these with immigration data of inbound/outbound travelers. This allows healthcare providers to obtain patients' travel history, occupation, contact history, and clustering at mass gatherings in real-time, enabling efficient triage, and rapid and accurate diagnoses while keeping healthcare professionals safe. Also, with the support of Chin-Shun Huang, President of Taiwan Pharmacist Association, the name-based mask distribution system, which allows the public to buy face masks using their NHI Cards in over 6,000 pharmacies nationwide, also played a significant role by leveraging NHI data to ensure universal access to face masks for Taiwan's public.


  With respect to inbound travelers, the Quarantine System for Entry was used alongside the Intelligent Electronic Fences System (IEFS) to triangulate the location of quarantined individuals based on mobile phone signals and nearby cell towers. If the mobile phone signal of a quarantined individual appears outside of his/her quarantine area, the system will send out alert messages. The authorities from the police, civil affairs, and healthcare affairs will then proceed to confirm such individual's actual compliance with quarantine rules and take any necessary action. This system successfully enforced public authority and significantly reduced the workload required in pandemic control. This success may be the result from the high level of mutual trust between the government and the public, the strengthened collective solidarity in the face of international isolation, and the powers bestowed upon the government by the Communicable Disease Control Act during the pandemic.


Director General Po-Chang Lee stated that the publication of Taiwan's strategy for fighting against COVID-19 on The BMJ's blog shows that Taiwan has a comprehensive public health infrastructure, and is ahead of the curve in its pandemic prevention and control actions. He believes that this will inform the international academic community on efforts by the Taiwan government. Taiwan's success fighting this pandemic must also be attributed to the steadfast and decisive commands given by government officials at every level, as well as full commitment by the healthcare community including all medical practitioners, pharmacists and nurses. We are grateful to Professor Chi for facilitating the submission of the article; now the world can learn about Taiwan's success and other countries can use it as model.


  Professor Chi also said that he would like to thank all the government officials for their contribution to Taiwan's pandemic prevention and control, which enable the Taiwanese to live a safe and healthy life amid this global pandemic, as well as filling them with pride about Taiwan. These joint efforts of the government agencies have allowed him to proudly share about Taiwan's experience and policies in many media interviews on COVID-19. Some Taiwanese are perhaps unaware of their good fortune; so far, pandemic control in the United States can only be described as "disorganized and fragmented", thereby putting residents at risk. Talking with colleagues, students and friends in the United States, he has emphasized that "during this pandemic, Taiwan's government and society have provided U.S. citizens staying in Taiwan with far greater freedom than that offered by the U.S. government."


  You can access the article "What we can learn from Taiwan’s response to the covid-19 epidemic" at: https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2020/07/21/what-we-can-learn-from-taiwans-response-to-the-covid-19-epidemic/

  • Date:2020-07-22