The groundwork for Taiwan’s heralded response to Covid-19 was laid in its response to previous epidemics. One notable measure from Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was to launch a toll-free epidemic prevention hotline in 2003 during the SARS epidemic. The number 1922 is now commonly known as the hotline for coronavirus reporting and consultation.

The 1922 hotline provides 24-hour bilingual service in Mandarin and English on disease reporting, disease consultation, prevention policy promotion, and control measure education. The Ministry of Labor operates a separate hotline, 1955, for migrant workers who need information regarding disease prevention as well as employment counseling.

Callers to 1922 have increased as tensions from the outbreak have risen. The call center recorded over 40,000 phone calls on some of the busiest days. Some callers have expressed their concerns about the hotline’s effectiveness on online forums since testing was not arranged immediately.

If you have a fever or other respiratory symptoms, the 1922 personnel would ask you to put on a surgical mask and go to a designated hospital or a nearby clinic. The doctor would then advise whether coronavirus testing is necessary. Designated hospitals would already have a separate entrance ready for people with suspected infection to avoid spreading the virus to other patients.

新竹市社會處協送居家檢疫便當 避免面交接觸

Photo Credit: CNA

The Hsinchu City Council has arranged no-contact food deliveries for people in home quarantine to lower the risks of coronavirus infection.

What if you’re already in mandatory quarantine?

If you have recently returned from a country in which Covid-19 is circulating, or have been in contact with a confirmed case, you probably would not have to call 1922. Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) would have arranged a quarantine procedure for you or they would be actively looking for you. If any symptom appears, the authorities would also arrange a mandatory test at an indicated medical institute for you.

It takes the authorities less than 24 hours on average to locate the suspected cases through big data analytics and new technology. By integrating Taiwan’s national health insurance with immigration and customs database, the government is able to track travel and contact histories of its citizens.

CECC has separated its quarantine policy into three categories including “home isolation (居家隔離),” “home quarantine (居家檢疫),” and “self-health management (自主健康管理).”

Home isolation is the strictest among the three. Those who have had contact with confirmed cases of Covid-19 are subject to home isolation for 14 days, while those returning to Taiwan from abroad after March 20 are subject to a mandatory 14-day home quarantine.

武漢肺炎疫情衝擊 旅客著防疫裝備入境

Photo Credit: CNA

Taiwanese returning from abroad are seen wearing protective suits and face masks when entering the border at the Taoyuan International Airport on March 22, 2020.

To ensure that people stay at home as required, the government is working in tandem with telecommunications companies to track their phones. Mobile-based “electronic fences” are installed to ensure people remain in quarantine.

Local health department staff call those in home isolation twice per day to make sure that they do not go out without their phone, whereas those in home quarantine only receive two phone calls from their county or city government.

During the isolation or quarantine period, individuals can ask their family members to help shop for groceries and deliver necessities. The CECC advises individuals in home quarantine to keep a safe distance from their family members and always wear a face mask if they leave their bedroom. The local government can also set up services for individuals who live alone.

Those who step outside of their residence or do not answer the calls are visited by the police. Violation of the quarantine measures brings fines of up to NT$1 million and group quarantine.

People who have tested negative or those who have returned from countries with level 1 or 2 travel warnings before March 19 have to practice self-health management for 14 days.

Although these people are also included in the phone-tracking system, their movements are not restricted. They are only required to report their conditions daily to the health authorities through text messages.

Only people in home isolation and home quarantine with coronavirus symptoms are arranged for treatment or inspection by the health authorities. Those in self-health management are only advised to seek medical treatment if symptoms present. However, if people in the latter group have gone for medical inspection, they are also obliged to stay home until a negative result is confirmed.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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