Watching Taiwan’s cautious and prudent response for the past two years to the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic was truly a prideful display. From Taiwan’s early attempts to cooperate with the WHO, which were ignored then rebuffed, to the quick border closures and quarantine measures put in place that were mocked by international health authorities, and Biden himself, as “racist” and ineffective, Taiwan humiliated China and much of the world with its stellar performance. That is, until that is they too became complacent, and administrators began to devalue human life and place it as a priority below economic normalization and international trade.
If one looks at the details, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) over the past eight months has appeared capricious and inconsistent with its frequent rule changes and then relaxations, and ought to bear heavy responsibility for the massive outbreak that exploded this Summer, with many of the more than five hundred human lives lost because of their gross incompetence. Lack of responsibility should lie heavily on their consciences. Yet, few Taiwanese people are even aware of the flagrant mistakes made.
The CECC in March, and then again in April, chose to relax quarantine requirements for pilots, presumably to ease costs on large corporate airlines and reduce friction amongst their white-collar ranks. While as with tracking any pandemic, certain attribution is impossible, but this fatal error partially contributed to this latest Taipei outbreak which occurred in May. What’s even more egregious is that it took the CECC nearly a month after the outbreak began, during which daily domestic infections had reached over two hundred per day, to issue corrective measures to try to cover this loophole designed to help large corporations at the expense of the hundreds of dead and disabled.
Despite the abysmal furtive attempts to acquire AZ vaccines from “allies” who pass Taiwan nothing more than nearly expired or simply unwanted vaccines, or the truly sad display of the government begging corporatists like the disgraced 郭台銘 to, on their behalf, beg Pfizer and AZ manufacturers for their second-tier vaccines which have proven relatively ineffective against the new strains when compared to Moderna, domestic vaccines were largely ignored by the central government. This lack of central support is why even their mediocre order of only 10 million doses from domestic producers, enough to cover less than 25% of the Taiwanese population, won’t even be fulfilled until mid-December.
BioNtech (Pfizer) is now a partially Chinese-owned ostensibly German firm who took taxpayer money from the German government before privatizing the intellectual property, and then refusing to sell the vaccine to Taiwan because of interference from major shareholder Shanghai Fosun.
The Pfizer BioNtech vaccine has shown shamefully poor recent prospects, as new data from Israel indicates a dismal 64% effectiveness against Delta infection. AstraZeneca data is extremely variable, but has been as shamefully weak as 21.9% effective against B.1.351, the South African variant.
Despite these numbers, this administration would prefer injecting their population with low-tier tripe, while rewarding the same company, BioNtech, that was perfectly willing to let every man, woman, and child in Taiwan die because of Chinese shareholder opposition, than to trying to buffer domestic vaccine production capacity through 高端 or 聯醫.
Yet, in Taiwan, as in the US after America’s own alarmingly poor response, the government doesn’t want to hear complaints about their poor preparation, or their current missteps buying the decomposing trash of other nations. They don’t want to admit their blunders, purge the wrong-doers, and put human life as their number one priority. They are increasingly acting like their equally incompetent peers in governments abroad, putting theatrics on social media and using political correctness to make sure that you must believe in your bones that the government is doing the best it can, and that anyone not groveling and kissing the feet of the elected deities are just reading fake news or are unpatriotic fools.
The point is not to compare the Taiwan to other countries, nor to dismiss the accomplishments and right moves that have obviously been made, too.
The point is rather that objectively, despite having 18 months of lessons learned from the blunders of other countries, the Taiwanese government’s Coronavirus response has been frankly embarrassing.
While limited by circumstances, their vaccine preparation, other than the abortive and singular attempt to buy Pfizer vaccines prior to the latest outbreak, was virtually non-existent. Their response to the May outbreak was also haphazard, and weak-willed, especially considering how many half-measures were taken whenever there was an opportunity to protect the economic and political elites, centered in Taipei and New Taipei, while putting everyone else in the country in desperate peril.
Regardless of what difficulties they faced and continue to face, rallying behind the flag and shouting support for mediocrity disguises the fact that the government is made up of elected representatives, public servants to the people, not the other way around. This is not China. When public servants fail, they can not simply demand silence and then fealty, nor do their hollow apologies or vaccine memes mean much to the people, as the crematoriums are working round-the-clock incinerate the evidence of their mistakes in the form of the mounting dead.
Transport faced almost zero closures or limitations. Workplaces, stores, and even public markets were kept up and running. Instead, city governments, while keeping the school and restaurant “lockdowns” alive to pretend as if they care about the pandemic, have been keeping revenue generating public services running at full capacity.
Taiwanese people, especially those outside of the North are getting increasingly frustrated with the clear favoritism and priority given to Taipei, and to the economic elite and well connected firms and industries, at the expense of the rest of the country. They are also frustrated at the mealymouthed doublespeak coming from the government, first publicly lambasting BioNtech for their malfeasance, and then handing the Chinese-owned company a massively outsized ransom cheque, paid with taxpayer money, all for the pitiful 64% protection it offers.
Citizens should ask for at least the most basic modicum of public service and can not expect perfection, but at least expect some degree of responsibility, and a sheer minimum of competence. Until this government begins to display either, they should expect no thanks for the mounting kill counts their tenures so proudly display.
Staff writer: Ari B