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Despite Coronavirus, Taiwan Remains Safe and Healthy (Updated April 8)

Taiwan’s front-line medical staff, epidemiologists and policy-makers have been doing sterling work containing the outbreak. Everyone I’ve spoken with – citizens, residents and visitors – greatly appreciates the efforts being made to keep us safe.

– Mark Pemberton, Life of Taiwan founder and managing director

Life of Taiwan is ready to resume normal operations as soon as the travel restrictions enforced to stop the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19 or 2019-nCoV) are lifted. The majority of tourist attractions, hotels and restaurants remain open as usual. Some people are working from home but the greater part of the economy hasn’t suffered anything like the disruption seen in many other countries.

Thanks to early and decisive action by Taiwan’s government, the virus remains under control throughout the island. Notwithstanding its historical links with and physical proximity to China, Taiwan is a different country with tight immigration and customs controls. What’s more, few Chinese nationals were permitted by Beijing to visit Taiwan ahead of the latter’s presidential and parliamentary elections on January 11. This policy — no doubt motivated by Beijing’s fear that witnessing Taiwan’s democracy could ‘confuse’ Chinese citizens — probably protected the island at a time when the coronavirus threat wasn’t yet properly recognised.

Taiwan has first-class resources and extensive experience dealing with contagious diseases. The entire population benefits from a world-renowned system of health insurance; everyone who needs medical treatment can get it. Insanely, Taiwan isn’t able to participate in the World Health Organisation.  

If you visit Taiwan, even when there’s no ongoing health crisis, you’ll see a great many people wearing medical or cloth masks. This is common; fear of germs isn’t the only reason. Some Taiwanese (and other East Asians) wear masks against dust, traffic emissions, and bad odours — or to hide their identity or conceal bad skin or dental braces. In the current public-health climate, those who don’t wear masks when coughing or sneezing are seen as selfish and inconsiderate (at best) or downright dangerous (at worst). Without a mask, it’s impossible to board a bus or a train or use the metro.

Supplies of face masks and gel for washing hands is adequate. In Taiwan as elsewhere, it’s a good idea to wash your hands several times a day. And do remember that Taiwan remains an exceptionally safe and welcoming place to explore!