Contact tracing, quarantine keys in COVID-19 fight: ex-VP told CNN

09/14/2020 04:48 PM
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Former Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) / CNA file photo
Former Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) / CNA file photo

Taipei, Sept. 14 (CNA) Stringent contact tracing and quarantine measures were more effective than locking down cities in containing the spread of COVID-19, former Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) told CNN on Sunday.

During an interview with CNN host Fareed Zakaria on his weekly show "GPS," in which Chen shared Taiwan's experience in combating the coronavirus, the Johns Hopkins-trained epidemiologist said that unlike the United States, Taiwan did not lock down its cities.

"City lockdown is not a good way. The very careful contact tracing and very stringent quarantine of close contacts are the best ways to contain the COVID-19," he said.

He pointed out that Taiwan did not lock down any city or conduct widespread mass testing. Instead, it tested people who showed possible symptoms of COVID-19 and then did contact tracing and tracking of those who may have come in contact with positive cases.

"In this way, we considered it more efficient and also more effective," he said.

Chen, who served as Taiwan's vice president from May 2016 to May 2020, also highlighted the importance of the 14-day home quarantine for those who had close contacts with confirmed cases.

As of today, around 250,000 people have been quarantined in Taiwan. Among them, 99.5 percent followed the quarantine guidelines while the remaining few who broke the rules received penalties, Chen said.

"Basically I always say that we have sacrificed 250,000 people's freedom for 14 days. But through this kind of home quarantine we can assure that 23 million people in Taiwan can work normally, go to school normally and live normally," he said.

In this way, Taiwan managed to contain the COVID-19 and reduce the economic impact the pandemic may have caused the country, according to Chen.

Meanwhile, asked by Zakaria if he thought China deceived the world at the beginning of the outbreak, Chen said the world would not have suffered as much as it is now if China reported it to the World Health Organization (WHO) at an early stage.

"If the WHO received the information and helped China contain COVID-19 in Wuhan in December, I think the disease [could have been contained] there quite well," he said.

Chen also noted that in the early stage of the outbreak, the Wuhan authorities treated only severe cases in hospitals and ignored the mild ones, resulting in the spread of the coronavirus from the city to other parts of the country and the world.

Asked to predict how the pandemic might play out in the coming months, Chen said the first wave of the COVID-19 "has not gone at all," given the fact that confirmed new cases remained high around the globe.

"It is still going on, so we have to be very careful," Chen warned.

(By Joseph Yeh)

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