COVID 2.0?


( – Drawing on memories of the SARS cover-up and the initial response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, Taiwan has recommended vulnerable populations against traveling to China due to a surge in respiratory illnesses.

In the face of an outbreak of respiratory illnesses, the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has issued a travel advisory warning young people, elderly citizens, and those with compromised immune systems to avoid traveling to China.

Issued following a Cabinet meeting, this advisory extends to Hong Kong and Macau, and recommends flu and Wuhan coronavirus vaccinations for travelers visiting these areas.

Despite the Chinese government’s claims of controlling the outbreak, recent observations indicate a return to pandemic-era measures such as travel restrictions and public disinfection.

The MOHW’s statement aligns with global apprehensions regarding China’s handling of disease outbreaks.

Reactions to Taiwan’s advisory have been mixed among epidemiologists. Shu-Ti Chiou, from the Health & Sustainable Development Foundation in Taipei, expressed concern that the advisory might create a false sense of security against respiratory illnesses outside China. Rajib Dasgupta, from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, questioned the efficacy of travel restrictions for respiratory infections.

Conversely, other public health researchers, including Sung-il Cho from Seoul National University, supported the advisory, noting the likelihood of respiratory illness surges in winter and following the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin downplayed the severity of the outbreak, describing it as a typical cold and flu season. However, Taiwan, recognized as a sovereign nation separate from China, remains cautious.

Reports from Chinese state-run media acknowledge challenges in handling the surge of respiratory illnesses, particularly among children, but claim that the health system is coping better than during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite these claims, social media is rife with images of overcrowded hospitals and distraught parents.

The South China Morning Post noted the re-emergence of coronavirus control measures in China, especially in densely populated areas like schools and nursing homes. Videos from the city of Sanhe show workers in hazmat suits disinfecting streets and buildings, reviving memories of strict pandemic lockdowns and leading to public dismay at the return of these measures.