In 2020, most countries in the world locked down their societies with the goal of controlling the Covid-19 pandemic. There were some outliers. Sweden, Belarus, Tanzania, and some US states deployed little in the way of “nonpharmaceutical interventions.”
Another fascinating outlier – often cited as a case in which a government handled the pandemic the correct way – was Taiwan. Indeed, Taiwan presents an anomaly in the mitigation and overall handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In terms of stringency, Taiwan ranks among the lowest in the world, with fewer controls than Sweden and far lower than the U.S.
The government did test at the border and introduce some minor controls but nowhere near that of most counties. In general, Taiwan rejected lockdown in favor of maintaining social and economic functioning.
Source: Oxford University (stringency index) and Lancet
How did Taiwan fare in terms of cases? Taiwan has seen 573 cases, which is remarkably low for a country with a population of close to 24 million and a population density of 1,739 people per square mile.
In terms of death, the numbers are even more striking. Throughout the entire pandemic, Taiwan experienced only 7 deaths. Of the deaths, the individuals were in their 40s to 80s, the majority with preexisting health conditions.
To put this in perspective, in a stringent terrority with similar demographics, LA County’s population is 10 million and population density is 2,500 per square mile – meaning slightly denser but less populated – but by contrast, it has had 309,000 cases and 7,000 deaths.
How did Taiwan maintain such low numbers?
A paper from the Lancet aims to answer this question by providing a few explanations. The authors’ main claim is that Taiwan’s rapid mobilization is ascribed to pre-Covid medical institutions,