Hong Kong saw an astounding 26,908 new COVID cases today. Hong Kong has also been reporting hundreds of deaths per day during this most recent outbreak. This should be a dire warning to Taiwan about becoming lax in their maintenance of pandemic protections.

Many have continued to ask when Taiwan will “open up,” thinking that there is some threshold to be met in terms of vaccination status. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a constant barrage of new variants that bare little resemblance to the original, while still using vaccines that were designed to fight a strain we haven’t seen in 2 years.

I want to make it very clear that I am not saying this to add to any vaccine hesitancy. Observational data and lots of anecdotal data I have received from nurses that are both my family and my friends have told me that upwards of 90 percent of those that die of COVID are unvaccinated. However, it does seem that the vaccines are not as effective as they were against the initial strain of the virus. This is evidenced by what is happening in Hong Kong right now.

Hong Kong is a place with a vaccination rate that exceeds 72 percent. Similar numbers have been thrown around by many, reckless, media figures as perhaps enough for ‘herd immunity’ (a favorite phrase of every elite who’s sole desire is to get their wage servants back into the office). It clearly is not. Even with relatively high vaccination rates, this variant is ripping through the city.

Hong Kong certainly has a few things working against it, one being that it is a densely populated place. This is especially true for those that are not rich. Often living in cramped, and in many cases even communal, apartments to save money on the insane rents in the city. This obviously does not lend itself to handling a pandemic well. The fact that Hong Kong is also now currently run by an ineffectual puppet dictator doesn’t help much either.

Taiwan doesn’t deal population density to such a significant degree, though it is quite dense compared to many places, and it doesn’t deal with the last one at all (unless you talk to someone like Jaw Shaw-kong). It would likely see a similar affect if it decides to opens up its boarders.

Taiwan only boast a vaccination rate of a few percent higher than Hong Kong, a little over 77 percent. Honestly though, even if it were 99 percent, the Omicron strain has seen countless breakthrough cases, even in Taiwan. While there may be a lower chance of death, this still likely means a severe overburden on hospitals, just as we are seeing currently in Hong Kong. This is even more worrying when thinking of how elderly Taiwan’s population is, knowing that they are much more susceptible to serious symptoms and death from COVID.

There is also not much of a reason to “live with the virus” (one my least favorite phrases and often an oxymoron because many people in fact “die with the virus”). Taiwan’s economy, counter to what some people might erroneously believe, actually grew over the past year. It is estimated that in 2021 Taiwan’s GDP expanded over 6 percent. While I’m not one that believes economic numbers are a great metric for how average people are doing, the myth that strong pandemic protections kill economies is one that needs to be done away with immediately. If we’re being honest, keeping people healthy is a pretty damn good way to keep people working and economies chugging along.

Taiwan should certainly move to allow travelers to come in, especially those that are coming to live or work for extended periods of time (Taiwan should also fix their broken immigration system but that is another article in and of itself). However, they must ensure that these visitors quarantine and test just like everyone else entering the country. This, along with masking and contact tracing, are the reasons Taiwan has been doing so well throughout the past 2 years.

Taiwan should keep doing what has worked for it the entire pandemic, and throughout history. Quarantining has been the tried and true method for getting rid of communicable illnesses for centuries. We should look at this pandemic no differently. Without a COVID zero strategy, we are simply asking for more variants, more sick people, and more death.