Happy shoppers spotted near Taipei 101. (Image courtesy of Devon Chang)
Beacon High School

Column: COVID-19 around the world: Taipei through my mothers eyes

COVID-19 cases continue to rise a whole year after the initial lockdown and variants are being discovered, complicating scientists’ knowledge about the virus. According to the New York Times, in the United States there are 70,355 new cases, more than 31 million total cases, and 560,000 deaths. 

Over the past week, the United States has seen an average of 67,175 cases per day, an increase of 4 percent from the average two weeks earlier. But California has averaged 2,359 cases per day, a 11.3% decrease from two weeks ago, according to the L.A. Times.

With this understanding, it is extremely important to be constantly checking the news for the most updated information and continue to take strict precautions in everyday lives so you can protect your family and yourself accordingly.

The news continues to be grim, but it is not to say there is no hope in our future. As vaccines get distributed and provided to more and more Americans, we can look to the possibility of a future that is pandemic-free. Of course, getting all Americans vaccinated and growing people’s confidence in the efficacy of the vaccine is still a huge challenge.

We can do our part in controlling the spread and preventing new variants to form. 

In order to do so, we can look at countries that have been successful in coronavirus control, and try to implement their effective measures into our daily lives. It is refreshing to be able to see countries that have returned to almost worry-free, regular lifestyles.

Taiwan has been one of the most successful countries in controlling the coronavirus. The small island is home to over 23 million people, nearly as much as the continent of Australia. An October 2020 Time article reported that Taiwan had a record streak of 200 days without a COVID-19 death.

Residents there are able to eat out at their favorite restaurants, attend school and work, take public transportation, and do all of the things they love. Of course, the virus is still taken very seriously amongst the people there.

Even though there is pretty much no coronavirus in the country, a lot goes into simply maintaining this. Everyone still wears masks out and the process for visitors and non-residents entering the country is very strict. 

My mom has recently traveled back to Taipei, Taiwan, her own hometown, to be with family. Though she is all settled into her life there now, the process of getting there wasn’t entirely easy. She documented her entire journey, everything from the plane ride to the extensive quarantine process, as well as how she is living her life now.

All foreigners arriving in Taiwan must follow through with a strict quarantine process of at least two weeks before being able to move around the city freely. All travelers must stay in a quarantine space, and if found not abiding by these rules, the consequence is a monetary fine, such as one reported by CNN of a man fined $3,500 for stepping out of quarantine for 8 seconds. 

1. My mom on her flight from NYC to Taipei, Taiwan. 2. My mom’s view from her “quarantine hotel.” 3. Complimentary mask and disinfectant provided by the hotel in celebration of the gay pride parade happening on street level (images left to right) (Image courtesy of Devon Chang)

Immediately upon arrival, front desk workers at my mom’s quarantine hotel rushed to spray down all luggage and bags with disinfectant. They followed all typical safety precautions and made sure to be extra strict, especially when in contact with travelers. All meals during the quarantine period are delivered to your front door, contact-free, from food services, such as Ubereats, in order to avoid all possible interactions between people. 

If you appear asymptomatic after the two-week quarantine period, you are free to roam around the city, shop in malls, dine in all local restaurants and attend gatherings, while, of course, still wearing masks in public.

(Image courtesy of Devon Chang)

Not only do residents of Taiwan take great attention to following safety precautions in their daily lives, but it is also relevant to note their reactions to rare findings of confirmed covid cases. The disciplined and concerted efforts of the general public is another way Taiwan separates itself from other countries struggling to control virus cases and is what helps them stay successful. 

1. local indoor cafe dining experience in Taipei. 2. My mom enjoying a sunny day near Taipei 101 after completing her mandated quarantine period. (images left to right) (Image courtesy of Devon Chang)

After having one recent death, all establishments prioritized carrying out extra safeguards. My mom previously had the benefit to be able to visit my grandma in her nursing home. Now new rules stipulate that no visitors will be allowed for an entire month, even though you may be completely virus-free. 

Comparing to the strict and expedient way Taiwan responds to such small numbers of cases, it is concerning to note that we are constantly seeing COVID-19 deaths in the US every day, yet our response to it has almost grown numb in comparison. 

On March 15, 2020, right before we went into lockdown, Dr. Fauci stated: “If it looks like you’re overreacting you’re probably doing the right things.” It is easy to label Taiwan’s efforts on mandating virus control regulations as “overreacting” or unnecessary.

As we can see, Taiwan’s efforts to keep its country coronavirus free has led them into great success and permits residents to live somewhat normal lives in comparison to the US. Collectively, the people of Taiwan are willing to support these efforts, promising a more free life, in the pursuit of happiness. Americans can take note and do the same, if not for this pandemic, then at least for future ones, so that we can be truly free.

(Image courtesy of Devon Chang)