As of this writing, the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) global pandemic watchdog endcoronavirus.org projects that sixty-nine countries still need to take more concrete action to mitigate the spread of the virus. Over the early courses of the pandemic fight, Vietnam has been named by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a primary role model in disease mitigation as they implemented efficient and immediate public health policies that prevented that rise of the number of cases in their country (Dreisbach, 2020).
Among the Asian nations that successfully dealt with disease mitigation are Taiwan and Thailand. Both countries are notable for their extensive experience in successfully handling pulmonary-related epidemics, which include the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, the 2015 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) epidemic, and COVID-19.
Prior to stepping down as Vice President of Taiwan on May 20 of this year, human genetics expert Chen Chien-jen received global attention as his epidemiology specialization became vital in the public health policymaking process to fight the spread of the virus in the country. The Johns Hopkins-trained scientist-politician was considered by the global media as the country’s ‘secret weapon’ in fighting COVID-19 as had the both the medical, scientific, and political experience in providing guidance for the ‘Taiwan model’ of virus outbreak control (The New York Times, 2020). Upon stepping down from his position, he returned to the academe by joining Academia Sinica, one of Asia’s premier research institutions, to continue doing research about COVID-19 mitigation (Cheng, 2020). Moreover, it can be noted in an interview with the British broadsheet The Telegraph, he revealed that Academica Sinica is involved with the United States National Institutes of Health and European Union health institutions that are collaborating in the research work on the COVID-19 vaccine (Smith, 2020).
Moving to Southeast Asia, Thailand proved that disease mitigation and action can be prioritized despite their tense political situation. The country has the best medical infrastructure and investment in the region, and this proved well in the current global pandemic as their fatality rates are well below 2 percent (Abuza, 2020). As with Taiwan, medical institutions in Thailand are already well-established in the field of epidemiology and tropical medicine. The country lists as one of the top-ranking countries in the Global Health Security Index (Searight, 2020). Thailand also ranks second after Australia in the Global COVID-19 Index, the list of countries that has the best recovery rates globally (Thai PBS World, 2020). Beyond having well-trained experts that could fight the global pandemic, the country boasts more than a million healthcare volunteers that are assigned in villages throughout Thailand to closely monitor the health situation in grassroots communities (Ratcliffe, 2020).
As such, we can see the significance of appointing epidemiology experts in the public health policymaking process and implementation to successfully mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These technocratic practices have provided great insight and lessons as to how other countries may stand their ground in this global pandemic.
Abuza, Z. (2020). Explaining Successful (and Unsuccessful) COVID-19 Responses in Southeast Asia. The Diplomat. Retrieved from https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/explaining-successful-and-unsuccessful-covid-19-responses-in-southeast-asia/.
Cheng, C-T. (2020). Chen Chien-jen becomes Taiwan's first vice president to give up pension. Taiwan News. Retrieved from https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/3934346.
Dreisbach, J.L. (2020). Vietnamese Public Health Practices in the Advent of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Developing Countries. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, 101053952092726. doi:10.1177/1010539520927266
Ratcliffe, R. (2020). Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam... How some countries kept Covid at bay. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/14/thailand-malaysia-vietnam-how-some-countries-kept-covid-at-bay.
Searight, A. (2020). Strengths and Vulnerabilities in Southeast Asia’s response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Retrieved from https://www.csis.org/analysis/strengths-and-vulnerabilities-southeast-asias-response-covid-19-pandemic.
Smith, N. (2020). Taiwan's Vice-President Chen Chien-jen on his country's fight with Covid-19. The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/taiwans-vice-president-chen-chien-jen-countrys-fight-covid-19/.
Thai PBS World. (2020). Thailand is ranked 2nd in global COVID-19 recovery index. Retrieved from https://www.thaipbsworld.com/thailand-is-ranked-2nd-in-global-covid-19-recovery-index/.
The New York Times. (2020). Taiwan’s Weapon Against Coronavirus: An Epidemiologist as Vice President. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/09/world/asia/taiwan-vice-president-coronavirus.html.