Ambassador Chung-Kwang Tien is the Representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Centre (TECC) in India. An ace diplomat, he has held several important positions in Taiwan’s foreign ministry and in different foreign missions of his country.
Ambassador Tien has made a substantial contribution to the growth of India-Taiwan ties ever since he took charge in New Delhi in January 2013.
In an interview with ASHOK TUTEJA, he speaks about how Taiwan succeeded in controlling the dreaded Covid-19 and how his country is assisting other nations, including India, in winning the battle against the pandemic.
Q. Taiwan is being considered as a success story in the fight against coronavirus. What is the secret of your success?
A. There is an old saying: “A stitch in time saves nine.” On December 31, the same day China notified the World Health Organisation that it had several cases of an unknown pneumonia, R.O.C. Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control immediately ordered inspections of passengers arriving on flights from Wuhan.
A team of experts was dispatched to the mainland on a factfinding mission on January 12. Shortly after the team returned, Taiwan began requiring hospitals to test for and report cases. That helped the government identify those infected, trace their contacts and isolate everyone involved, preventing the virus from spreading to the community.
In addition, Taiwan has established a comprehensive national disease prevention mechanism: this includes digitized disease monitoring systems, stringent border quarantine measures, extensive community-based countermeasures, advanced medical preparedness, an abundant stock of preventive medical appliances and resources, concise guidelines and information for the reference of the general public, and annual disease prevention and control drills.
Our central and local governments coordinate with the private sector to jointly prevent the spread of epidemic diseases. By doing so the trust between the general public and the government has been very closely bonded. Early assessments released by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University projected Thailand and Taiwan to have the highest risk of imported Covid-19.
However, there have since been far fewer locally transmitted cases in Taiwan than in many other developed countries, testifying to Taiwan’s effective disease prevention efforts. Compared with disease outbreaks around the globe, outbreaks of communicable diseases in Taiwan have remained relatively low.
Q. How is Taiwan assisting other countries in fighting COVID-19?
A. Taiwan’s actions in containing this pandemic have been widely recognised internationally. As the outbreak continues to spread globally, Taiwan is sharing its experience with other countries. The international community has also expressed hope that Taiwan can provide further assistance.
There have been far fewer locally transmitted cases in Taiwan than in many other developed countries, testifying to Taiwan’s effective disease prevention efforts. Compared with disease outbreaks around the globe, outbreaks of communicable diseases in Taiwan have remained relatively low.
I wish to emphasise that although many countries have sought Taiwan’s support for some time, the government hitherto has been cautious to agree to such requests before ensuring that domestic demand could be met.
Now that the number of masks being supplied to the domestic population has been increased, and the issue of providing masks to citizens abroad has been attended to, the government can finally answer the requests from international communities. This first wave of assistance will be channeled to the countries hardest hit, providing local medical personnel with more resources to fight and contain the pandemic.
Moving forward, Taiwan will continue to appraise the situation and its own prevention and containment capacity when planning assistance, including that directed toward partner countries under the New Southbound Policy. Efforts to strengthen international epidemic prevention and containment cooperation have seen much progress lately, (which are) as follows:
Technical cooperation: The US, the EU, the Czech Republic, Canada, and others have held talks or video conferences with Academia Sinica and leading Taiwanese vaccine manufacturers to discuss and deepen cooperation regarding the research and development of such biotechnology as rapid screening kits, reagents, and vaccines.
Establishing cooperative partnerships: In addition to establishing a cooperation framework with the US, Taiwan is also collaborating with Australia for the exchange of materials to combat Covid-19. Taiwan will also start working with the Czech Republic on the R&D and production of rapid screening kits, vaccines, and medicines, as well as exchanges of medical supplies and equipment, establishing a multifaceted framework of cooperation in public health and epidemic prevention and containment.
Working with civic groups and NGOs: For example, Catholic groups in Taiwan have been deeply concerned about the situation in Italy and recently arranged for equipment to be sent to Italy through the Holy See’s Apostolic Nunciature in Taipei, including goggles, caps, face shields, endotracheal tubes, and phlegm suction kits.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and private enterprises also jointly donated 25 ventilators as well as other medical supplies such as face shields, disinfectant spray, and ventilator filters to hospitals in heavily impacted areas of the Czech Republic.
Q. Taiwan has donated surgical masks to the US and several European countries. Have you offered any donation to India too?
A. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on April 2 that Taiwan will donate 10 million face masks to the United States, European Union member states and other European nations, and diplomatic allies to support medical personnel in containing COVID-19.
Undertaken in the spirit of “Taiwan can help! Taiwan is helping!” and accompanied by a call for greater international cooperation, this constitutes Taiwan’s first large-scale humanitarian assistance initiative in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
India is a very important country in our New South Bound Policy. Our government has decided to take action to assist India and other countries in this region to fight the pandemic
Q. Is Taiwan sharing with India at any level its best practices to combat the pandemic?
A. Taiwan National Cheng Kung University Hospital (NCKUH) shared Taiwan’s experience and expertise in containing the spread of Covid-19 with nearly 9,000 Indian medical staffs in India on April 2 via video conference.
Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases and Director of Quarantine, Dr. Chen Po-Lin at NCKUH gave a special lecture on Covid-19, and responded to questions raised by Indian medical staffs on the spot.
A few days ago, NCKUH received a request letter from an Indian NGO forwarded by Taiwan External Trade Development Council, stating that the hospitals in India hope to learn Taiwan’s experience to assist their medical staff to improve overall preventive medical measures.
According to Dr. Xu Yilin, Director of the International Medical Center of NCKUH, in accordance with the government’s epidemic prevention regulations, mutual visits with Indian medical staff are temporarily suspended. However, video conferencing is used to teach Indian medical staff how to treat Covid-19 patients and protect themselves during treatment.
Each participating Indian medical staff was either in the hospital or private space to go online at the specified time at the same time, and participated in the video conference simultaneously. NCKUH stated that the video conference was very successful.
In the future, NCKUH will design a series of related teaching and group discussion and exchange activities based on Indian medical needs. The doctors of NCKUH hope that the online teaching will share Taiwan’s medical experiences with Indian medical staffs and help India effectively control the epidemic as that will enable Taiwan fulfil its international responsibility.
Taiwan will continue to provide medical assistance as part of international medical and health cooperation.