Taiwan is experiencing one of the world’s worst COVID-19 outbreaks


In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases and deaths have been on the rise in Taiwan, with tens of thousands of new infections occurring daily. This is the result of Taipei’s decision to remove virus mitigation measures and allow the deadly virus to spread. Mainstream media have praised Taipei’s actions as part of the agenda of putting profits before lives and also demonizing Beijing’s zero COVID policy.

COVID-19 vaccination in Hsinchu, Taiwan (Image: Wikimedia)

On Tuesday, Taiwan officially recorded 311,253 cases for the previous week, the most in all of Asia. That was more than three times as many as Japan, which had the second-highest number of cases in Asia during that period, according to the Worldometer website. Taiwan has only been surpassed globally by the much more populous countries of Germany, the United States, France, Brazil and Italy. Given the increased use of the less reliable rapid antigen tests in Taiwan, it is almost certain that the true number of cases is much higher.

Taken as a percentage of the population, the epidemic in Taiwan, with 23.9 million people, reveals an even more tragic situation. A total of 980 people, or 41 people per million, have died in the past week alone, one of the highest per capita rates in the world. During the pandemic, 6,448 people have died from COVID-19 in Taiwan, the vast majority in the past two months. By contrast, mainland China, with a population of more than 1.4 billion, has recorded just 5,226 deaths, and none since late May when Beijing successfully halted a major outbreak in Shanghai.

The decision to allow the spread of COVID-19 is presented as a response to the latest outbreak which began in April. Falsely claiming that 99.5% of cases were mild or asymptomatic, Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang said that month: “We won’t shut down cities like Shanghai did, but neither will we remove our masks nor stop taking virus prevention measures.

However, the decision had been made long before that to abandon all mitigation measures. According Nikkei Asia on April 15, an unnamed Western diplomat in Taipei, concerned about the impact of COVID restrictions on big business, said the government “told us three months ago that they had decided to open… But we have seen very little progress.”

In other words, Taipei’s claim that the cases in the current outbreak were mild and therefore allowed the island to lift restrictions is fraudulent. Instead, Tsai Ing-wen’s government was looking for an excuse to lift the restrictions that would not anger the population, with many still in favor of the restrictions. A poll at the end of April found that 46.3% of people favored a zero COVID policy while 45% were expected to support “living with the virus”. Anti-Beijing propaganda undoubtedly played a role in dwindling support for mitigation measures early in the pandemic.

All this before the highly contagious and immuno-evasive BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants were introduced in Taiwan. On Monday, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that it had discovered 61 cases of BA.4 and BA.5 infections in travelers arriving from overseas between June 10 and June 18, bringing the total number to 126. Although no case of domestic transmission of these subvariants has yet been recorded, it is only a matter of time.

Despite the fact that both sub-variants have resulted in a new wave of COVID-19 cases around the world, it has not caused the Tsai government to rethink its lifting of almost all mitigation measures, including procedures. quarantine for those who tested positive and for the two close contacts. and overseas travellers.

While the quarantine for people who test positive has been reduced to seven days, that of close contacts has been reduced to three days with four days of self-monitoring. The definition of close contact has also been narrowed down to only include people living together or working in close proximity.

On May 3, the same day new COVID cases officially soared to 23,128 on the island, Taipei announced it would reduce its 10-day quarantine requirement for new arrivals to seven days. At the end of the month, the island recorded a record 94,610 daily new cases on May 27. On June 15, the requirement was reduced to three days. All of this means that quarantines are largely unnecessary and will likely be phased out in the near future.

The contrast between Beijing’s wildly popular zero-COVID response on the mainland and Taipei’s decision to allow the deadly virus to tear the population apart is stark. While Beijing’s policies have saved millions of lives and succeeded in containing disease outbreaks, Tsai’s government and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party are sacrificing the population to the interests of global finance capital.

Led by Wall Street, ruling classes around the world have denounced Beijing’s zero-COVID approach, complaining about the impact on the global economy. The Washington Postfor example, wrote on April 29, as the outbreak in Taiwan escalated: “The growing economic cost and human toll of China’s unwavering ‘zero covid’ policy has given ammunition to those who believe that a change towards living with the virus is inevitable. ”

The Taiwanese bourgeoisie, however, is not content to bend under the pressure of foreign capital. His earlier promotion of virus restrictions was not based on public concern, but on fear that allowing the virus to spread would lead to widespread anger in the working class, similar to the mass discontent that has been voiced. during SARS of 2002-2004. epidemic.

Now, with the widespread promotion of anti-mainland sentiment in the establishment media, contrasting Taiwan’s “very successful approach”, in the words of the Guardianin May, Taipei felt it could lift the restrictions, while drawing a false equivalence between virus suppression measures and authoritarianism.

It is also the tactic Washington is using to blame China for the growing economic crisis around the world, pitting so-called “democratic” Taiwan against mainland China. In doing so, Washington seeks to challenge the “One China” policy which states that Taiwan is part of China, which the United States officially recognizes.

Throughout the pandemic, first under Trump and then Biden, Washington has falsely accused Beijing of being responsible for the pandemic while presenting Taiwan as an example to follow, thereby questioning Beijing’s legitimacy. The growing number of infections and deaths belies these claims and underscores the criminal nature of the laissez-faire policy pursued by virtually every government in the world, including in Taiwan and the United States.


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