TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As many countries around the world scramble to limit infections and deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic at the expense of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Taiwan is still leveraging the goals as opportunities for business growth.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently warned that COVID-19 is taking the world further away from the SDGs. The world is experiencing the sharpest decline in per capita income since 1870, and between “70 and 100 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty.” He pointed out the pandemic is having such a devastating impact because of humanity's past and present failures, some of which are linked to the lack of progress on the SDGs.
July 24 marks the 107th day without a new local coronavirus case in Taiwan, while many countries are still seeing a rise in infections and remain under partial lockdowns. Meanwhile, over 15 million people have been infected, with over 635,000 killed worldwide, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.
Taipei has exemplified how the SDGs can be implemented in many different areas of life to ensure health and growth at the same time.
The Taiwanese capital's Department of Environmental Protection said the city government has been cooperating with the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on various measures that address the UN's SDGs, including Good Health and Well-being (Goal 3), Quality Education (Goal 4), Decent Work and Economic Growth (Goal 8), Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (Goal 9), Sustainable Cities and Communities (Goal 11), Responsible Consumption and Production (Goal 12), as well as Partnerships for the Goals (Goal 17).
To prevent the spread of the disease and the well-being of all citizens, the city made face masks mandatory on public transport at the very beginning of the outbreak. It also organized a fleet of specially outfitted taxis and ambulances to transport those undergoing home quarantine or suspected of being infected to minimize the risk to society. A total of 35 hotels in the city have been designated as places for people required to undergo home quarantine or isolation who are having trouble finding accommodation.
With schools at all levels postponing spring semester to either late February or early March to limit the outbreak, the city government quickly offered a cloud-based remote learning platform, CooC, to serve students with special needs from afar, including those under home quarantine or whose school had temporarily closed after coronavirus cases were identified. For underprivileged students who might not have an internet connection at home, free SIM cards were made available on request to accomplish the goal of quality education remotely.
Despite the pandemic being so well contained in Taiwan, some businesses are suffering from the absence of international tourism and orders, and the number of furloughed employees has risen. To help some of these people sustain themselves financially, the city government has created approximately 2,000 jobs related to epidemic prevention efforts. In addition, tax breaks, subsidies, and stimulus packages have been offered to individuals as well as small and medium-sized enterprises to maintain business and economic growth.
To ensure the safety of public transportation in the city, mask-wearing is required at all times when taking the mass rapid transit (MRT) system, and infrared thermal imaging cameras are in place at major MRT stations to measure body temperature; passengers with high fever are not permitted to ride. More frequent cleaning and disinfection of passenger trains and stations is performed.
Meanwhile, communities have been invited to join the epidemic prevention network and take part in drills for different scenarios to ensure citizens can respond to outbreaks in a timely and proper manner. Also, cleaning task force has been formed to carry out disinfection at the city’s main and transit stations on a weekly basis.
(Taipei City Government photo)
As its efforts have paid off, the city government has proactively distributed multilingual outbreak response guidelines to cities in other countries as part of its commitment to global partnership and cooperation.
Taipei's latest Voluntary Local Review annual report will soon be published on IGES VLR Lab, where the SDG-based practices it employed in the fight against COVID-19 will be shared with the world, according to city officials.