Vietnamese in Taiwan remain unfazed despite Covid surge

Thuc Oanh, an employee at JinWen University of Science and Technology, New Taipei, said she had signed up to get a Covid-19 vaccine, but the shot has been delayed because Taiwan has prioritized health workers.

"I personally feel that Taiwan has done very well because they tried to buy vaccines starting last year when there were not many Covid-19 cases," she said.

The island is currently fighting its most severe outbreak since the start of the pandemic after being once considered to have one of the world’s most successful models in containing the virus.

Experts said the shortage of vaccines is the reason for the collapse of many anti-Covid-19 strongholds in Asia in 2020.

In mid-May Taiwan saw 1,500 new infections and 12 deaths, and then the virus began to spread rapidly.

Statistics from the U.S.’s Johns Hopkins University show that since then there have been more than 8,000 infections and 100 deaths. The island has so far received 700,000 doses of vaccines, and managed to immunize 1 percent of its 23 million population.

Minh Thong, a fourth-year student at Ming Chuan University in Taipei, said people are responding calmly to the pandemic.

Thong is impressed with the discipline people have shown.

The day after health authorities raised the danger level in Taipei and New Taipei to level 3, which requires people to limit going outside, he said he "went out and barely saw anyone" though he lives right near Shilin, one of the most famous night markets.

Medical declarations and epidemiological information are digitized through QR codes to help people prevent infection, he said.

He said life has not changed much though people have to stay at home to work and study.

However, his and thousands of other students’ graduation ceremonies had to be held online to prevent gatherings, and the restrictions on going out have caused some restaurants to only offer takeout and delivery, he said.

"Many international students cannot work and have lost their income. But those who have internships at companies can work from home. So they are not affected too much."

Oanh said for more than a year she has been going to work as usual. Only recently has there been a major Covid outbreak, but she does not feel too worried because her job allows her to work from home.

"The CDC and the mayor hold press conferences every day, so I know the current epidemic situation and know the guidelines to follow."

Even before the big recent outbreak Taiwanese officials were stepping up negotiations to buy Covid-19 vaccines from abroad.

At the end of May, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said two million doses would be imported in June and 10 million by the end of August.

The island is also expected to produced indigenous vaccines this year after clinical trials are completed, reducing the dependence on overseas supply.

Kiet Tuong, 29, who works as an electronics engineer in the northern city of Hsinchu, said he is still required to work in the office due to the nature of his job, but employees are distanced from each other.

Taiwan still recommends that people who do not have symptoms or have not been in contact with an infected person do not need to test to reduce the pressure on the health system, he said.

The city where he works does not have too many cases, and so he does not feel worried enough to get tested, he said.

"In recent days the media has said two or three vaccines have arrived in Taiwan, but they are all meant for frontline workers such as doctors, nurses and police.

"Priority is given to epidemic areas or big cities such as Taichung and Kaohsiung. Probably everyone in the priority groups has been vaccinated and herd immunity is already high."

Thong said Taiwanese are not impatient for vaccination.

"The healthcare system here is good and people here have understanding of this virus. If the antibodies in their body are good, they can survive. Young people take protective measures against the infection, but are not so worried that they seek to get vaccinated at any cost."



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