Taiwanese digital minister shares country’s coronavirus response on CNN

Audrey Tang highlights Taiwan’s humorous approach to quash pandemic fake news, revisits WHO controversy

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Digital Minister Audrey Tang. (Taiwan Cabinet photo)

Digital Minister Audrey Tang. (Taiwan Cabinet photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen across the U.S., Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) joined CNN on Tuesday (June 30) to share Taiwan's pandemic experience and how it has managed to contain the virus without issuing a nationwide lockdown.

During a video interview with CNN, the digital minister pointed out that the island nation has so far recorded less than 500 infections and seven deaths. She said the Taiwanese government established the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) after it learned its hard lesson from the 2003 SARS pandemic, which has contributed enormously to the effectiveness of the country's response.

Tang mentioned that the CECC started its preparation for the COVID-19 battle soon after health official Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞) spotted Chinese reports of mysterious pneumonia on the Reddit-like platform, PTT, on Dec. 31. She said that the health department's alertness was vital in preventing virus carriers from crossing the country's borders.

When asked how the Taiwanese government was able to integrate a digital fence system into its quarantine measures without violating the privacy of citizens, Tang explained that the CECC leverages cell phone location data to determine whether the quarantined individuals have left their assigned locations, but no new information was collected during the process.

In regard to coronavirus rumors and misinformation, Tang noted that Taiwan has adopted a "humor before rumor" approach to minimize panic behaviors. Take the example of the panic buying of toilet paper, she said that the government used a cartoon featuring a booty-shaking Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) to remind the public that everyone only has one butt and hoarding is unnecessary.

Tang also elaborated on Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Organization (WHO) and criticized the international health body for ignoring the East Asian nation's initial pandemic warning. However, she said that the country was able to engage in meaningful knowledge exchanges with 14 other countries and regions prior to the World Health Assembly (WHA) and received fruitful information, reported CNA.