TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Thanks to the outstanding handling of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Taiwan has seen the least impact on its economy by the pandemic, disproving the widely spread myth that controlling infections must always come at the cost of economic growth.
On Sept. 1, Our World in Data released a report in which it tested the hypothesis by certain politicians that protecting the public against the coronavirus must come at the expense of the economy. To test this politically charged theory, the authors of the study compared death rates from the coronavirus with the percentage in negative GPD growth in the second quarter of 2020 (April to June).
In a chart showing 38 countries which had the latest GDP data for the second quarter, a period when much of the world saw a massive increase in coronavirus cases and deaths, Taiwan had the smallest economic contraction at only 0.6 percent. Thanks to the swift action by the CECC at the start of the outbreak, followed by methodical contract tracing and strict quarantine rules, Taiwan has only seen seven deaths from the disease.
The country suffering the second least economic damage was South Korea with a 3 percent contraction, having only suffered 363 deaths. Next was Lithuania with 87 deaths and a 3.7 downturn, Finland with 337 deaths and a 5.2 percent slump, and Norway with 265 deaths and a 5.3 percent dip, rounding out the top five.
As for the bottom five countries, Peru saw the heaviest downturn of 30.2 percent and a death rate of 30,710, Spain suffered a drop of 22.1 percent and a death toll of 29,747, and the UK registered a contraction of 21.7 percent and 41,628 in deaths. Tunisia was an outlier with only 107 deaths but a 21.6 economic decline, and France took fifth to last place with 30,903 deaths and an economic plunge of 19 percent.
According to the authors of the study, if anything, the data showed that countries that were better able to contain the virus and prevent deaths saw a much smaller negative impact on their economies than countries that tried to keep their economies without first bringing local outbreaks under control. However, the report did acknowledge that some countries with similar drops in GDP experienced very different death rates, indicating that there are many factors affecting the coronavirus death rate and the economic growth rate during the pandemic.
The report concludes that sound epidemic prevention policies save lives and that countries able to have controlled the "outbreak effectively may have adopted the best economic strategy too." China's data was not included in the study, given that, as the source of the pandemic, it suffered its greatest economic downturn a quarter earlier, not to mention China's statistical data has long been notoriously unreliable, as a report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission can attest.
During an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN on Sunday (Sept. 13), former Taiwanese Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said that strict quarantines meant no major lockdown was required and businesses were able to stay open. Chien emphasized that although 250,000 people had to sacrifice 14 days of their time, it assured that 23 million could "work normally and live normally," thus reducing the economic decline in Taiwan.