KMT legislators held a conference today. In this meeting many called on the central government to loosen pandemic controls. This comes as Taiwan has seen rising case numbers over the past few days.
One of the reasons Taiwan has had so few cases of COVID overall, is due to its strict, and mostly efficient, pandemic protections. These include things like universal masking and contact tracing. Quarantine has also been key in ensuring that cases from abroad do not come in and spread the virus wildly, this has been even more essential as more transmissible forms of the virus pop up, such as the Delta and Omicron variants.
It seems the main reason that KMT legislators, such as Hung Mong-kai (洪孟楷), wish to get rid of these protections, responsible for saving what is likely to be hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese lives, is the economy. This is in spite of the economy growing an estimated 6 percent last year (though of course that doesn’t mean people are doing well fiscally speaking).
Some legislators pointed out that Taiwan’s vaccine coverage is growing, citing this as evidence the nation is prepared to open up. It is true that vaccine coverage in Taiwan is relatively high, over 83 percent for one dose and over 78 percent for the second dose. However, one issue with this is that third doses, which now seems to be the standard for being “vaccinated”, is sitting just above 50 percent. Now in places like the US, many are calling for a fourth vaccination to ensure protection, which Taiwan hasn’t even started yet.
Another problem with the vaccine strategy is that it doesn’t stop the spread of the virus. We can see this happening in numerous other countries that had high vaccination rates, opened up and then were decimated with infections and deaths. The most recent example of this is Hong Kong. Hong Kong is currently dealing with a horrific outbreak (and shows why Taiwan should maintain COVID zero) after a long stretch with few cases. Now, they’ve had over 7000 deaths in just a few months and hospitals are overwhelmed.
Taiwan would likely face similar issues, with its high population density and aging population, in addition to the fact that because Taiwan has kept cases so low, there is nearly no natural immunity, which may be helping (though it is not clear to what degree) in places that have decided to ignore COVID, such as America (though it should also be noted that nearly one million Americans are now dead and are still dying at high rates).
Whether or not people currently are in favor of pretending like the world is not still in the middle of a global pandemic, if Taiwan were to open up it is very likely to become an overwhelmingly unpopular decision immediately. The party that decides to do this would also likely be punished for their decision. Being that this year is an election year, it would likely be quite disastrous for the Tsai government and the DPP to go down this path.
It certainly is unfortunate for those that work in the travel industry that tourism numbers are down. The government should be helping those people and ensuring that everyone is financially sound, especially because of the huge economic growth last year. However, it seems that decreased revenue is much preferable to mass death and an overwhelming of the healthcare system in Taiwan.