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Former Taiwan VP speaks out against 'exaggerated' COVID predictions

Chen Chien-jen urges public not to panic when looking at global pandemic statistics

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A man holds up a rapid test kit purchased from a pharmacy. 

A man holds up a rapid test kit purchased from a pharmacy.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Former Taiwan Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) took to Facebook on Thursday night (April 28) and urged the public not to panic due to exaggerated COVID-19 predictions.

“The Omicron variant has caused the domestic COVID-19 case count to rise geometrically, inevitably instilling fear within people’s hearts. Moreover, some people have made horrific predictions about case and death counts related to COVID-19,” wrote Chen. As the predictions are often based on the case-fatality rate of the past Alpha, Beta, Delta variants or of other countries, they become exaggerated when applied to the Omicron variant.

According to Chen, Taiwan’s strategy to “coexist” with the virus is to minimize the number of severe cases and deaths. He cited data from Johns Hopkins University to illustrate that Taiwan’s highest daily average case count per million people, which was Tuesday’s (April 26) 182, and the highest daily average of deaths per million people, Tuesday’s 0.01, are a fraction of the amount compared to numbers in the U.S., France, Israel, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

Additionally, while case-fatality rates in other countries reached as high as 2% before decreasing since mid-February, Taiwan’s case-fatality rate has been dropping from 0.6% since mid-January. By the end of April, the number had fallen to 0.03%.

“Predictions of the pandemic’s future development are not helpful at all to current anti-COVID efforts, and erroneously citing foreign data as a basis for predicting Taiwan’s COVID development is not only unsuitable but causes unnecessary panic as well.”

Per Chen, since many infected with the Omicron variant are asymptomatic and undetected in countries with high vaccination rates, case counts can be inaccurate. The only way to make an accurate prediction, he added, is by understanding the number of confirmed infections through seroepidemiological research and estimating the percentages of undetected infections, asymptomatic infections, and unreported infections.

Chen wrote that according to seroepidemiological research conducted by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while 75.1 million confirmed cases had been recorded by authorities before February, 190 million had actually been infected. The cases not included in the official count were mostly undiagnosed, asymptomatic, or unreported.

Now that Omicron is spreading, the emphasis for COVID analysis is no longer on case counts but rather on the number of severe cases and deaths, while the emphasis for COVID-prevention goals is no longer on achieving zero infection but rather on minimizing severe cases and deaths.

As long as vaccination rates continue to grow, rapid test kits are widely supplied, and those infected can be treated in a timely manner, the number of severe cases and deaths will be greatly reduced and there will be no reason to panic, Chen concluded.

Former Taiwan VP speaks out against 'exaggerated' COVID predictions
Taiwan's seven-day rolling average COVID case count per million people is much lower compared to other countries. (Facebook, Chen Chien-jen image)

Former Taiwan VP speaks out against 'exaggerated' COVID predictions
Taiwan's seven-day rolling average COVID death count per million people is much lower compared to other countries. (Facebook, Chen Chien-jen image)

Former Taiwan VP speaks out against 'exaggerated' COVID predictions
The case-mortality rate of COVID in Taiwan has been dropping steadily since January. (Facebook, Chen Chien-jen image)