Panicking at the very last moment?

The old hospital building of Taiwan National Normal University, built between 1898 and 1921 by the Japanese colonial administration

During the worst phase of this seemingly endless pandemic, I was still living temporarily in Spain, where a lethargic, fatuous and incompetent Leftist government handled it in the worst possible way, leaving behind more than 100,000 casualties and a completely devastated economy.

At the same time, Taiwan had reacted extremely fast, de facto closing its borders at the beginning of 2020, first to citizens of the People’s Republic of China, where COVID-19 supposedly started in late 2019, then to all other aliens without a permanent residency.

Some Taiwanese were (and up to this day still are) directly banned from traveling abroad, like all medical personnel, or simply deterred by the draconian quarantine regulations they would face once back in Taiwan, and its often considerable economic cost.

But generally speaking, people on the island were enjoying an otherwise normal life, envied by many around the globe, until the virus finally hit it hard, too, in May 2021.

That’s exactly when I arrived back in the only city where I want to live: Taipei. Due to the fact that I brought home my two cats, Max and Leni, I wasn’t as flexible as I would have wished with my travel dates.

Anyway, everything went well at the beginning until Max got very sick and almost died last autumn. I saw the necessity and got accustomed to wearing a surgical mask as soon as I stepped outside of my building, even when I was just throwing out my garbage.

Nevertheless, cases here kept increasing, though compared to other parts of the world were still pretty low thanks to strict official measures and the admirable discipline shown by almost all locals.

Earlier this year, countries like Denmark abolished all special regulations regarding COVID, as its leaders recognized the futility of fighting the next, softer Omicron variety, experienced as a mere cold by most of those affected.

Even before that, I spoke to half a dozen friends in Valencia and Berlin, whom at the end also got it-none of them showed any severe symptoms! Omicron seemed to be more contagious, but at the same time much less harmful.

Yesterday 40,000 new cases were reported in Taiwan, where the outbreak has not yet peaked. Aged 50 to more than 90, 10 men and two women died, but only one of them didn’t have underlying health issues.

While that sheer number may sound frightening, only 52, or about 0.2 %, of those recent patients had moderate and 19 severe symptoms, which confirms worldwide trends. Still, at present quite a few Taiwanese are in a panic mood.

Yesterday I wanted to check a few things at a German acquaintance’s place nearby, but her local roommates don’t allow any strangers into the apartment and for no apparent reason have been talking about having to disinfect it completely.

This morning, while replenishing my mixed pickles stock, I was accused of actually underestimating the disease by a shop assistant, who told me in confidentiality that her boss was in home quarantine.

Last weekend a foreign friend, who had ignored my suggestion to meet, admitted that he and his family hardly go out during weekends, and letting anyone into their flat at the moment is completely out of the question.

One should never become totally careless about COVID, especially as there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, and avoid stupid mistakes. On the other hand, hysterical behavior during the last phase of restrictions must be considered very inappropriate.