The nation faces five main challenges in the second stage of its fight against COVID-19, Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳), convener of the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) expert advisory panel, told a conference on COVID-19 policies and strategies in Taipei on Thursday.
The challenges are the continued severity of the global situation; how to gradually lift border restrictions and interact with other nations; how to strike a balance between disease prevention and resuming normal activities; how to avoid a second wave of infections; and how to obtain effective vaccines and drugs, he said.
The last is crucial to future efforts to prevent COVID-19, Chang said.
International vaccine trials have been progressing well, and there has also been some progress on the domestic front, he said, adding that he expects the first phase of clinical experiments to begin this month.
If there were a vaccine, the situation would not be as serious as it was before, he said.
Asked whether the low number of confirmed cases in Taiwan had to do with a lack of mass testing, Chang said that while the possibility exists that asymptomatic cases are not being tested, from a disease prevention perspective, there are bound to be people with symptoms, and there would not be no warnings at all.
Experience shows that the virus has not been detected in most of the people tested due to contact tracing, he said.
This shows that Taiwan’s low number of cases is not because of few tests being done, but because the nation is confident of keeping the situation under control without using too many resources, he said.
Asked about reports of people in Japan and Thailand testing positive for COVID-19 after leaving Taiwan, Chang said the Japan case could have been categorized as positive or negative, while the Thailand case was a “weak positive.”
COVID-19 has so far not been detected among the people who came in contact with either case, he said, adding that Taiwanese health authorities respect others’ decision to classify the cases as positive.
National Taiwan University president Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) told the conference that different economic organizations had forecast that economies around the world would shrink this year.
With the US-China trade dispute changing the global supply chain, Taiwan must consider its role and position in this changing landscape, he said.
Since World War II, the US has led the world, but this time “Captain America” is missing, he said, adding that whether the global social order would still be led by the US is a question.
Taiwan must raise its crisis-awareness and think deeply to be able to stand more firmly and face future challenges, he said.
The conference was hosted by the Taiwan Economic Association, National Taiwan University’s College of Social Sciences and National Yang-Ming University’s research center for disease prevention studies.
Additional reporting by Wu Po-hsuan
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