COVID has continued to spread over the past weeks in Taiwan as the government has decided that its citizens must “live with the virus.” While evidence from nearly every other country in the world shows that this is essentially a guarantee that a generous portion of elderly and immunocompromised people will die, Taiwan’s government seems to have decided that that is a sacrifice they are willing to make.

Since the beginning of the pandemic Taiwan has experienced struggles getting vaccines. This issue was due in large part to China’s meddling, attempting to be the middleman for all vaccine purchases for Taiwan, and also its long, and successful, campaign to keep Taiwan out of international organizations such as the WHO.

In spite of these obstacles Taiwan does have a relatively high level of vaccinations. However, there are still a number that do not wish to get the vaccines, or cannot because of preexisting conditions. This, combined with the governments newfound love for keeping all businesses wide open, is leading people to seek out other avenues for prevention, whether they actually have any evidence behind them or not.

There have been an increasing number of stories in the Taiwanese press, and Chinese state media, about using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a prophylactic against COVID. Of course there is no evidence that these various tinctures are anything but a powdered security blanket. However, with people increasingly worried about potentially being infected, they are much more likely to take drastic actions, one might recall a certain deworming medication that became quite popular last year in the US.

One large target of this campaign seems to be unvaccinated children. While the government in Taiwan did do a pretty good job in organizing vaccination campaigns in schools to get vaccines to students that wanted them, there are still a number of kids that aren’t vaccinated. It is also yet to be seen how many will opt to get their booster shots when they are eligible.

The elderly are also common targets of TCM in Taiwan and as their vaccination rates are also a bit lower, might be drawn in by empty promises of reduced heatiness and teas that stop COVID from binding to their cells. Buying into such promises could give them false hope that may lead them to being completely unprepared if they do get infected, or even taking risks under the false assumption that they are protected.

This call for the use of experimental, untested mystery mixes is only likely to continue in Taiwan. As more people get sick and die, people will almost certainly grow increasingly desperate in their attempts to evade the virus.

People turning to snake oil is rather unfortunate to see, however it is understandable when their government is decreasing measure to combat a virus that has already killed millions around the world.

While TCM might not help with COVID, we all know what does, masking, contact tracing, and quarantining for those infected and those entering the country. Thankfully Taiwan has continued most of these polices, unfortunately they seem to think they can get away with reducing quarantine policies.

We have already seen that this, and opening up venues like night clubs for people to spit into each other’s mouths, while community spread is at its highest in the history of Taiwan’s outbreak, is not going well. Hopefully the government will acknowledge that this strategy is not working and go back to what we saw work for over a year.