søndag 8. mars 2020

Taipei seems to have the virus in hand. Now I worry about returning to the UK 

As I stepped into a cosy restaurant in Taipei, the waiter signalled for me to stop, then ran at me, gun in hand. He held it near my forehead, then – click – my temperature was checked. He look relieved as he ushered me to a corner table. Taiwan’s capital (population 2.7 million) is on high alert. Temperature checks, face masks and hand sanitisers are the new normal as the city, and the island state, unifies in its battle against contagion.

“We suffered greatly with Sars – we couldn’t let that happen again,” a hotel worker said. In that outbreak in 2003 more than 150,000 in the country were quarantined, with 346 cases officially confirmed and 73 Sars-related deaths recorded.

A week ago, on the eve of my flight to Taiwan for a stopover on my way to visit family in Australia, I was worried about heading into the cradle of coronavirus, with thousands of cases and hundreds of deaths in the wider region. Last Sunday the UK had just 23 confirmed cases, while Taiwan had 39, one of whom, a 61-year-old taxi driver who also had diabetes and hepatitis B, had died – at that time the fifth death outside mainland China.