Taiwan’s strategy against Covid-19 was definitely successful: but was this enough to curb the pandemic side effects?
While most countries in the world struggled to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan tells us a different story. Taipei was able to implement a successful containment strategy in record times and managed to keep the infection rate incredibly low, despite the island being so close to the epicenter in mainland China.
The Taiwan Centers for Disease Control report no new confirmed infections as of June 17, and only 7 deaths out of the 445 total positives. Of these, 354 were imported from abroad, with a measly 55 locally acquired cases. These figures are a testament to the Government’s resilience and competence, and show how crucial early actions are, when dealing with national health crises. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. The global markets have been deeply affected, and this inevitably impacts Taiwanese companies and businesses, which heavily rely on exports.
This is what emerges from our interview with Thomas Liu, General Manager of Fratom Fastech, one of the most prominent manufacturers and exporters of high-precision metal cold and hot-forming tools for the fasteners industry.
How did you experience the first weeks of the pandemic? Would have you ever imagined that it could spread all over the world so fast?
“During the very first moments of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, we never thought it would go this far. Based on the initial symptoms, it looked just like the seasonal flu that generally dies off in early spring. Later, when the pandemic reached Taiwan, we started experiencing the first problems: here in Taiwan, the pandemic did not escalate to the point of triggering a national lockdown, but schools were closed and parents had trouble coming to work, because they had to take care of their kids. Therefore, the government allowed them to stay home. As a company needing a workforce in every station, this meant our production program was challenged by limited workers’ availability, and we fell behind schedule.”
Do you think the measures implemented by the government were sufficient to fight off the virus?
“Staying at home, keeping social distance, wearing facemasks in public areas, and so on: In my opinion, yes, these measures did help control the pandemic in Taiwan, because they reduced daily exposure to the potential risk of infection. The Taiwan government has done an amazing job in this regard. That being said, all these unprecedented measures implemented basically all over the world also created a psychological panic reaction which may have caused excessive alarmism, eventually halting the global economy.
Did you feel the institutions by your side, in terms of economic support in a real emergency situation?
The government provided some economic stimulus plans for business owners and individuals, but the criteria to apply for financial help are set to too high standards. For example, our company barely qualifies to get the government’s support. Luckily for us, we did not need any form of economic help: should we actually find ourselves in this situation, we would already be bankrupted.”
Fairs and events are an important business opportunity for companies: do you think the virus will affect their organization and the way they are carried out?
“Fairs, exhibitions, and routine customer visiting tours are essential for business development. Unfortunately, at present we cannot hold any of these. This seriously impacts the way we do business and we are not sure how long this situation will persist. I think that from now companies will reduce to the bare minimum business travel and attendance to fairs, exhibitions, and other international events, further worsening the global economic situation.”
Many agree that the pandemic will leave a heavy burden on the nationals and international economies. Do you share these concerns?
“Yes, I agree the pandemic is deeply affecting the global economy. Luckily, we at Fratom provide tooling solutions for the production of screws, bolts and other fastening systems. Fasteners are used daily in a huge variety of fields, from construction, automotive, medical, electronics, and so on, so the demand will never be completely flat, maybe not as high as the one we experienced in 2017 / 2018, but still better than nothing.”
Do you think going back to our old regular daily life is still possible or will we be forced to change our habits permanently?
“Before a vaccine is created, it will be difficult for all of us to go back to our usual lifestyle. I think our goals and priorities have definitely changed at this post pandemic stage. Overall, our perspective of life, mother nature, how we see the world and the people around us will be different from this point forward.”