It has been a long year since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and still there is absolutely no discernible end in sight.
Taiwan has thus far got away relatively unscathed and, as one Bloomberg reporter wrote: “Life in Taiwan ... has been ridiculously normal.”
As a medical professional, I know that this is no reason to sit back and rest on our laurels, while we read in the international media how dire the situation is in countries across the world hit much harder by the pandemic.
Nevertheless, as President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said in her New Year’s address: Last year “was by no means the most difficult year in human history. The flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Second World War in the 1940s were all extremely challenging for the people who lived through them.”
For the people who lived through those harrowing times, it must have seemed that they would never see the light at the end of the tunnel.
However, as Tsai said, people around the world have shown the resilience to live through those times, and this is reassuring and encouraging for us today.
In psychology, the word “resilience” means several things:
First, it refers to the reassuring relationship of attachment, leading people to seek shelter, comfort and safety.
Second, it is a positive emotion that reduces pain, and is essential for maintaining physical and mental health.
Third, it allows us to lead a purposeful life.
There are many studies on World War II concentration camp survivors that provide us with a wealth of material to understand resilience.
An article published in the New York Times on Jan. 2 commented on Taiwan’s anti-pandemic measures, including sealing itself off from the rest of the world.
“How much longer can the island’s good fortune last?” the article asks.
Of course, the author probably had little idea just how much blood and tears Taiwanese have shed since the end of the war to establish this unique nation.
The author also does not understand that during the challenging past year, Taiwan has had a president — elected in a free and fair general election — who is willing to accept the advice of the government’s public health experts and seal off the border to prevent the pandemic from spreading in Taiwan.
This is a scenario not really seen elsewhere.
The characteristics of a country’s leader can very much give us an idea about the country’s fate.
For example, the wise strategic moves of former US president Franklin Roosevelt and former British prime minister Winston Churchill were a sharp contrast to Adolf Hitler during World War II.
The author does not need to worry about when Taiwan’s anti-pandemic entry restrictions can be lifted.
After the experience of tackling the SARS outbreak in 2003, until all countries around the world have zero confirmed COVID-19 cases for three consecutive weeks, Taiwan’s border is unlikely to be opened unconditionally.
I believe that the widespread, global use of vaccines will help achieve this goal soon.
However, a different set of measures must stay in place to monitor those who travel to and from China until we can be assured that they present no threat.
Chen Chiao-chicy is a psychiatrist at Mackay Memorial Hospital and Mackay Medical College.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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