2020 coronavirus pandemic in Taiwan

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in Taiwan
COVID-19 outbreak Taiwan per capita cases map.svg
Confirmed cases per million residents by subdivision
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
First outbreakWuhan, Hubei, China
Index caseTaoyuan International Airport
Arrival date21 January 2020
(2 months, 1 week and 6 days)
Confirmed cases339[1][2][3]
Official website

As of mid-March 2020, the pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had a more moderate impact in Taiwan than in many neighboring countries, with relatively few infections overall.[4][5][6] The first case was announced on 21 January 2020.

The Taiwanese government integrated data from the national healthcare system, immigration, and customs authorities to aid in the identification and response to the virus. Government efforts are coordinated through the National Health Command Center (NHCC) of the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control, established to aid in disaster management for epidemics following the 2004 SARS outbreak.[7]

The Journal of the American Medical Association states that Taiwan engaged in 124 discrete action items to prevent the spread of the disease, including early screening of flights from Mainland China and the tracking of individual cases.[8][5]

Taiwan's handling of the outbreak has received international praise for its effectiveness in quarantining the people and by using the "electronic fence" to slow down the virus, despite being unable to gather WHO information due to being barred by China, and is seen as the model for other countries to learn from.[9][10] As of 29 March, 29,915 tests had been conducted in Taiwan with the vast majority not confirming a coronavirus diagnosis.[11]

Starting 19 March foreign nationals were barred from entering Taiwan, with some exceptions, such as those carrying out the term of a business contract, holding valid Alien Resident Certificates, diplomatic credentials, or other official documentation and special permits.[12]


COVID-19 cases in Taiwan  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases

Jan Jan Feb Feb Mar Mar Apr Apr Last 15 days Last 15 days

# of cases
# of deaths
0 0(=)
1 0(=)
1(=) 0(=)
1(=) =
3(+300%) 0(=)
3(=) 0(=)
4(+33%) 0(=)
5(+25%) 0(=)
8(+60%) 0(=)
8(=) 0(=)
9(+12%) 0(=)
10(+11%) 0(=)
10(=) 0(=)
10(=) 0(=)
10(=) 0(=)
11(+10%) 0(=)
11(=) 0(=)
16(+45%) 0(=)
16(=) 0(=)
17(+6%) 0(=)
18(+6%) 0(=)
18(=) 0(=)
18(=) 0(=)
18(=) 0(=)
18(=) 0(=)
18(=) 0(=)
18(=) 0(=)
20(+11%) 1(=)
22(+10%) 1(=)
22(=) 1(=)
24(+9%) 1(=)
24(=) 1(=)
26(+8%) 1(=)
26(=) 1(=)
28(+8%) 1(=)
30(+7%) 1(=)
31(+3%) 1(=)
32(+3%) 1(=)
32(=) 1(=)
34(+6%) 1(=)
39(+15%) 1(=)
40(+3%) 1(=)
41(+2%) 1(=)
42(+2%) 1(=)
42(=) 1(=)
44(+5%) 1(=)
45(+2%) 1(=)
45(=) 1(=)
45(=) 1(=)
45(=) 1(=)
47(+4%) 1(=)
48(+2%) 1(=)
49(+2%) 1(=)
50(+2%) 1(=)
53(+6%) 1(=)
59(+11%) 1(=)
67(+14%) 1(=)
77(+15%) 1(=)
100(+30%) 1(=)
108(+8%) 1(=)
135(+25%) 2(+100%)
153(+13%) 2(=)
169(+10%) 2(=)
195(+15%) 2(=)
215(+10%) 2(=)
235(+9%) 2(=)
252(+7%) 2(=)
267(+6%) 2(=)
283(+6%) 2(=)
298(+5%) 2(=)
306(+3%) 5(+150%)
322(+5%) 5(=)
329(+2%) 5(=)
339(+3%) 5(=)
Sources: Taiwan Centers for Disease Control[13]/Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)[14]

On 21 January, the first case in Taiwan was confirmed in a 50-year-old woman who just returned to Taoyuan International Airport from her teaching job in Wuhan.[15][16] She reported on her own initiative and was hospitalised without formal domestic entry.[16] The first domestic case was diagnosed in Taiwan on 28 January.[17] The first death in Taiwan was confirmed on 16 February involving a man in his 60s who had Hepatitis B and diabetes.[18] A woman in Taiwan was reported to have tested positive for novel coronavirus on 19 February 2020, though she had not traveled outside of Taiwan for two years.[19] Five new cases of coronavirus were reported in Taiwan on 29 February 2020, four of which marked the first transmission of the disease in a hospital setting.[20] Taiwan's fiftieth case of coronavirus was confirmed on 13 March 2020, an American expatriate who hosted four United States citizens at his home in Taiwan.[21] The next day, three new cases of coronavirus were confirmed to have been imported from Europe.[22] A Taiwanese national aboard the Diamond Princess tested positive on 6 February.[23] As of 19 February, five Taiwanese nationals aboard the ship tested positive.[24] Two Taiwanese who fell ill on the Diamond Princess were discharged from Japanese hospitals in February 2020.[25] The nineteen other Taiwanese passengers on the Diamond Princess were quarantined in Taiwan until 7 March 2020. All tested negative for coronavirus, and were released.[26] The index case for coronavirus in Taiwan recovered from the disease and was discharged from hospital on 6 February 2020.[27] Approximately a week later, a second Taiwanese national, the tenth case of coronavirus, had also recovered.[28] As of 2 April 2020, 50 people have recovered from coronavirus in Taiwan.[29] On 15 March, Taiwan announced six new cases, all imported. Health authorities are tracing contacts of these persons. Taiwan's health minister has advised people to remain in Taiwan and not to travel at all.[30] On 20 March 2020, Taiwan reported 27 new cases, the highest single-day increase.[31] The second death linked to coronavirus in Taiwan was announced on 20 March, and involved a man in his 80s, who had no recent travel history, but did have hypertension, diabetes and relied on kidney dialysis.[32] The death of a guide who had led tours to Austria and the Czech Republic was reported on 29 March.[33] The next day, two Taiwanese nationals who had traveled to Spain, were reported to have died of coronavirus.[34]

As of 2 April, there are 339 confirmed cases, including five deaths.[29][34] Among the confirmed cases is a Taiwanese man in his 50s who was fined NT$300,000 for failure to report his symptoms and attempting to conceal his subsequent activities, leading to a potential contamination incident at a ballroom in Kaohsiung.[35]


Imported cases: 291; Locally transmitted cases: 48

Preventive measures

Surgical masks used by people in Taiwan
Surgical masks and other medical equipment sold out in Taiwan

Before first case reported

On 31 December 2019, Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) implemented inspection measures for inbound flights from Wuhan, China in response to reports of an unidentified outbreak.[36] The passengers of all such flights were inspected by health officials before disembarking.[36] A six-year-old passenger who transferred in Wuhan and developed a fever was closely monitored by CDC.[37] At this time, there was alleged to be 27 cases of the new pneumonia in Wuhan.[37]

By 5 January 2020, the Taiwan CDC began monitoring all individuals who had travelled to Wuhan within fourteen days and exhibited a fever or symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. These people were screened for 26 known pathogens, including SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome, and those testing positive were quarantined.[7]

On 20 January, the government deemed the risk posed by the outbreak sufficient to activate the Central Epidemic Command Center [zh] (CECC),[38][39][40] which mobilized government funds and military personnel to facilitate face mask production.[citation needed] Originally established as a level 3 government entity,[39] the CECC was promoted to level 1 on 28 February.[41] The CECC has coordinated government responses across areas including logistics for citizens on the Diamond Princess, disinfection of public spaces around schools, and providing daily briefings with Chen Shih-chung, the Minister of Health and Welfare.[7]

After first case reported

After the first case of the coronavirus was reported on 21 January, the Taiwanese government announced a temporary ban on the export of face masks for a month on 24 January to secure a supply of masks for its own citizens;[42][43] on 13 February, this was extended until the end of April.[44] On 6 February, the government instituted a mask rationing system, requiring citizens to present their National Health Insurance card.[45][46] Prior to its implementation, the system was extended to holders of the Alien Resident Certificate, and people with valid entry permits.[47] People with odd-numbered identity documents were permitted to buy masks on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; those with even-numbered identity documents were to buy masks on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; anyone is allowed to buy masks on Sundays. Adults were allowed to buy two masks each visit and children four, with the restriction that a minimum of seven days must elapse since the last purchase. The date restriction for children under thirteen years of age was revoked on 27 February.[48][49] Starting 5 March, adults were permitted to buy three masks weekly, and the children's quota was raised to five.[50] Masks were available for pre-order online from 12 March.[51] In April, the mask rationing system is to be revised, so that adults could buy nine masks every two weeks. From 9 April, the specific date restrictions are to be removed. In addition, Taiwanese nationals can send 30 masks every two months overseas to first or second-degree relatives.[52] Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs assumed responsibility for distribution of masks to families of diplomats.[53]

On 2 February 2020, Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center postponed the opening of primary and secondary schools until 25 February (originally 11 February).[54][55] In early February 2020 Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center requested the mobilization of the Taiwanese Armed Forces to contain the spread of the virus and to build up the defenses against it. Soldiers were dispatched to the factory floors of major mask manufacturers to help staff the 62 additional mask production lines being set up at the time.[56] In early March, Taiwan's average production of surgical face masks reached 9.2 million per day.[57]

Disinfection against coronavirus

The Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation and the Taiwan Sugar Corporation increased production of 75 percent alcohol for use in sanitation.[58] On 25 February 2020, the Heping Women and Children's Hospital, a branch of the Taipei City Hospital [zh], was specially designated to care for patients with coronavirus.[59] From 4–31 March, the export of digital thermometers is to be banned.[60] On 16 March, the Tsai Ing-wen presidential administration announced that Makalot Industrial and other Taiwanese companies would begin domestic mass production of protective gowns, ending a reliance on American imports from DuPont during the pandemic.[61]

The Special Act on COVID-19 Prevention, Relief and Restoration was passed by the Legislative Yuan on 25 February 2020,[62] followed by a special budget for coronavirus expenses on 13 March 2020.[63]

As of 14 March, persons returning to Taiwan from most of Europe, plus persons who have transferred through China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Dubai, must quarantine in-home for 14 days.[64] As of 17 March, foreign nationals permitted in the country, namely, those who hold Alien Resident Certificates or who are on urgent diplomatic, business or other special missions, can rent a room in a public quarantine center.[65] On 20 March, the CECC has raised global travel notice to level 3; Taiwanese citizens are advised to avoid all nonessential travel.[66]

Travel notices

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Level 3 travel alerts have been issued by Taiwan for every country/region globally.[67] Taiwanese authorities suspended tours to China starting in February 2020.[68] The ban's duration was extended through April 2020,[69] and expanded to cover Hong Kong and Macau.[70] Taiwan also announced a ban of cruise ships from entering all Taiwanese ports from January 6.[71] In January, Italy banned flights from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.[72][73] However, China Airlines was permitted to fly Taiwanese nationals in Italy to Taiwan.[74][75] On 10 February, the Philippines announced a ban on the entry of Taiwanese citizens due to the One-China Policy.[76] Later on 14 February, Presidential Spokesperson of Philippines, Salvador Panelo, announced the lifting of the temporary ban on Taiwan.[77] On 23 February 2020, Taiwan banned frontline medical professionals working in hospitals from traveling to areas placed under a Level 3 travel alert.[78][79] The ban is to remain in place until 30 June.[80] On 16 March, the Executive Yuan announced that teachers and students at the secondary school level and below were prohibited from overseas travel until July.[81] Starting 19 March foreign nationals were barred from entering Taiwan, with some exceptions, such as those carrying out the term of a business contract, holding valid Alien Resident Certificates, diplomatic credentials, or other official documentation and special permits.[12]

Levels Suggestions Included countries/regions [82]
Level 1: Watch Follow local prevention measures
Self quarantine for 14 days required upon arrival
Level 2: Alert Further protective measures
Self quarantine for 14 days required upon arrival
Level 3: Warning Avoid all nonessential travels
Self quarantine for 14 days required upon arrival

Economic impact


In the aviation industry, Taiwanese carrier China Airlines's direct flights to Rome have been rejected and cancelled since Italy has announced the ban on Taiwanese flights.[83] The second-largest Taiwanese airline, Eva Air, has also postponed the launch of Milan and Phuket flights.[84] Both Taiwanese airlines have cut numerous cross-strait destinations, leaving just three Chinese cities still served.[85]

Stock markets

Taiwan Capitalization Weighted Stock Index has decreased over 13.1% due to the coronavirus. Foreign investors have sold over NT$200 billion.[86] TAIEX has also hit a 42-month low, closing at 8,681.34 points.[87] National Stabilization Fund decided on 19 March that it is essential to intervene in the stock market.[88]

Evacuation related to the pandemic

Departure date Evacuees Departure airport Arrival airport Notes
3 February 2020 247 Wuhan Tianhe International Airport Taoyuan International Airport Charter flight operated by China Eastern Airlines.[89]
21 February 2020 19 Haneda International Airport Taoyuan International Airport Evacuated Diamond Princess passengers.[90]
2 March 2020 11 Istanbul Airport Taoyuan International Airport After an Israeli passenger on another Turkish Airlines flight tested positive, the airline ran a special flight to take a Taiwanese tour group on the same flight as the confirmed case home.[91]
10, 11 March 2020 361 Wuhan Tianhe International Airport Taoyuan International Airport After some conflict between the Chinese and Taiwanese governments, two flights, one operated by China Airlines with 169 evacuees and another by China Eastern Airlines carrying 192, arrived around 23:00 on 10 March and 4:00 on 11 March respectively.[92]
29, 30 March 2020 367 Shanghai Pudong International Airport Taoyuan International Airport A flight operated by China Airlines evacuated 153 Taiwanese nationals from Shanghai on 29 March.[93] An additional 214 evacuees were flown to Taiwan on 30 March.[94]

International responses

Taiwan's early deployment of epidemic control measures and follow-up actions have received international praise and approval.[95] On 13 March 2020, the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranged for the Minister of Health, Chen Shih-chung, to have a meeting with envoys and representatives from various countries, and the epidemic prevention methods were affirmed.[96]


The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) pointed out several measures that Taiwan has taken to prevent community spread of the coronavirus. It emphasized that Taiwan has used lessons learned during the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak to combat the coronavirus pandemic.[97]


Former Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, wrote an article for Time, supporting Taiwanese participation within international organizations such as the World Health Organization in an effort to prevent deaths. He has compared preventative actions taken by the Taiwanese government and expressed the belief that other nations should have implemented such measures.[98]


German politician Sandra Bubendorfer-Licht described Taiwanese response to the virus as outstanding.[99]


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated that the Israeli government would use Taiwan's experience to fight the epidemic.[100][101]


On 10 March, the Japanese news site Foresight published an article by a freelance journalist named Nojima who is familiar with Taiwan affairs, analyzing Taiwan's policy decisions regarding the epidemic.[102] Japanese media also carried out long reports on Chen Shih-chung, Tang Feng and others. Tang Feng received the most attention in Japan.[103]

People's Republic of China

Due to the influence of the Chinese (PRC) government, Taiwan has been excluded from the World Health Organization. False reports of the outbreak spreading out of control in Southern Taiwan began in early January.[104]

New Zealand

On 15 March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand would follow Taiwan's example in their strategy to fight the epidemic.[105] Several news outlets in New Zealand have also mentioned what Taiwan has done to prevent the coronavirus.[106][107]

South Korea

During late February when South Korea was suffering from its domestic outbreak, the supplies of masks were running out. South Korean news started to emphasize Taiwan's masks policies, including ban on masks exports and masks selling policies, while criticizing the South Korean government for being too slow to react.[108][109]

United States

U.S. newspapers and magazines have suggested Taiwan and other Asian nations have done a better job at combating the coronavirus than the U.S.,[110][111] and mentioned how Taiwan has banned the export of masks and boosted mask production.[112]


Dispute over political status

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized civil aviation agency of the United Nations, rejected Taiwan's participation amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, which impacted Taiwan's ability to gather information from the international organization. In response to public inquiry on the organization's decision on Twitter, ICAO commented that their action is intended to "defend the integrity of the information".[113] The United Nations Secretary General described these inquiries as a misinformation campaign targeting ICAO.[114]

The World Health Organization (WHO) have listed Taiwan as part of China, which resulted in multiple countries including Italy,[115] Vietnam,[116] and the Philippines[117] briefly banning flights from Taiwan in January and February 2020, despite the disease not then having reached epidemic status in Taiwan.[118][119]

Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center hosted an interactive map which initially listed Taiwan under the category "country/region", along with Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. On 10 March, Taiwan's name was switched to Taipei and environs, a designation used by the World Health Organization. When a news organization reached out, the associate professor in charge of the project claimed they would be changing it back to Taiwan immediately.[120][121] By 12 March, Taiwan was restored to the map, and the university stated that it would adhere to naming conventions developed by the United States Department of State.[122]

Although Taiwan is excluded from the World Health Organization due to opposition from China, and thus has limited access to shared scientific information and data, the country's response has been lauded in international press.[123][124][8][125] Despite its proximity to China and large human flows, Taiwan has recorded the lowest incidence rate per capita – around 1 in every 500,000 people.[125] Success factors cited have included the fact that the country's vice president, Chen Chien-jen, is an epidemiologist who had obtained a doctoral degree at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health;[124] and the lessons learnt from the SARS epidemic in 2003, which hit Taiwan hard. Infrastructure, including the establishment of a national health command center integrating relevant agencies; data analytics; policies aimed at keeping healthcare affordable; and extensive educational outreach were put in place following the SARS outbreak.[123][124] Researchers at Stanford Health Policy researcher published an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association arguing that Taiwan's action plan – which included 124 discrete actions and coordination to be implemented in the first instance – including travel bans, quarantines, surveillance steps, social distancing – had saved Taiwan from a serious epidemic.[8]

Face mask control measures

The Taiwanese government announced the ban on the export of face masks before the epidemic had spread to many countries, which caused controversy; however, after the outbreak of the epidemic, people rushed to buy masks in many countries around the world.[126] Incidents of face mask confiscation by the government also occurred in mainland China, the world's top face mask manufacturer.[127][128]

In early February 2020, the Executive Yuan adopted the recommendations of professors Huang Li-min (黃立民) and Chang Shang-chwen (張上淳) of the National Taiwan University Medical School, advocating that healthy people do not need to wear masks in open spaces. On 8 February, Chen Shih-chung, commander of the Central Epidemic Prevention Center, further stated that there was no need to wear a mask on public transportation.[129] This caused a storm of protest. The main point of contention is that public transportation such as buses and MRT carriages are confined spaces, and viruses are transmitted more easily than in open spaces. [130]


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