Stringent contact tracing and quarantine measures are more effective than locking down cities in containing the spread of COVID-19, former vice president Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) told CNN on Sunday.
Chen shared Taiwan’s experience in combating SAR-CoV-2 during an interview with CNN host Fareed Zakaria on his weekly GPS program.
The Johns Hopkins-trained epidemiologist said that unlike the US, Taiwan did not lock down its cities.
“City lockdown is not a good way. The very careful contact tracing and very stringent quarantine of close contacts are the best ways to contain the COVID-19,” he said.
Taiwan did not conduct widespread mass testing either, he said.
Instead, it tested people who showed possible symptoms of COVID-19 and then conducted contact tracing and tracking of those who might have come in contact with them, he added.
“We considered it more efficient and also more effective,” he said.
Chen highlighted the importance of implementing 14-day home quarantine for those who had come into contact with confirmed cases.
About 250,000 people have been quarantined in Taiwan and 99.5 percent followed the quarantine guidelines, while the remaining few who broke the rules received penalties, Chen said.
“I always say that we have sacrificed 250,000 people’s freedom for 14 days. But through this kind of home quarantine we can assure that 23 million people in Taiwan can work normally, go to school normally and live normally,” he said.
In this way, Taiwan contained the outbreak and reduce the effect of the global pandemic on the economy, Chen said.
Asked if he thought China deceived the world at the beginning of the outbreak, Chen said that the world would not have suffered as much as it did if China reported the outbreak to the WHO at an early stage.
“If the WHO received the information and helped China contain COVID-19 in Wuhan in December [last year], I think the disease [could have been contained] there quite well,” he said.
Wuhan authorities at the early stage of the outbreak treated only severe cases in hospitals and ignored mild ones, resulting in the spread of the virus from the city to other parts of China and the world, Chen said.
Asked to predict how the pandemic might play out in the coming months, Chen said the first wave of COVID-19 “has not gone at all,” given that new confirmed cases remained high around the globe.
“It is still going on, so we have to be very careful,” he said.
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