The response to the coronavirus in Taiwan has been deemed one of the most successful in the world. By December 11, Taiwan had had only 724 confirmed cases and seven deaths. Furthermore, the island has never entered a national lockdown.
A clear plurality (44%) of the public in Taiwan nevertheless feels that the worst is yet to come with respect to the timeline of the coronavirus pandemic. Only around a third (33%) say the worst is behind Taiwan, while around a quarter (23%) don’t know. Pessimism, however, could simply reflect the very low figures Taiwan has experienced so far in relation to other countries, and fears that what has happened elsewhere may still happen in Taiwan.
As we have observed throughout our polling, younger respondents are more optimistic about the pandemic’s trajectory than older people. The age disparity is particularly acute in Taiwan, where a clear plurality (43%) of those aged between 18-24-years-old think that the worst is behind us, yet pluralities or majorities of all other age groups hold the opposite view.
Widespread pessimism about the timeline of the pandemic in Taiwan may also be related to concerns about the economic impact the coronavirus crisis may have on the island. Overall, almost half (46%) say that the worst is yet to come with respect to the economic effects of the pandemic.
Even so, a strong majority (63%) of the Taiwanese public continue to view the coronavirus crisis primarily as a public health crisis. Only 29% view the pandemic mainly as an economic crisis, while 9% don’t know.
Clear majorities of both genders, all age groups, all regions, and voters from each major political group believe that the coronavirus pandemic is primarily a public health crisis.
Meanwhile, only 29% of Taiwanese people agree that the coronavirus crisis will likely be over this time next year, and 22% disagree. The clear plurality (41%) neither agree nor disagree that the crisis will be over by December 2021, evidencing the continued uncertainty about the trajectory of the pandemic.
Taiwan understood the importance of masks from the start, with the island’s digital minister referring to them as a “physical vaccine.” Our latest polling revealed that a majority of the Taiwanese public say they always wear a mask when leaving their home (55%), taking public transportation (84%), and shopping at the supermarket (67%). These numbers may seem surprising for a country where the virus is not endemic.
The Taiwanese public appears somewhat less cautious when engaging with friends, entering other buildings, or walking in the park. In these instances, between 38% to 41% say they always wear a mask, and a further 18% to 22% wear masks “most of the time.” Notably, self-reported mask wearing has increased significantly in all settings since our polling in July.
Continually high levels of mask wearing may be a key factor in maintaining feelings of safety in Taiwan. Altogether, over two thirds (68%) feel safe leaving their home and try to live their life as close as possible to how it was before the pandemic. Less than a third (32%) do not feel safe. These results are similar to five months ago.
Moreover, a majority of the Taiwanese public feel safe engaging in a variety of activities. For example, the overwhelming majority currently feel safe going to work (71%), shopping for groceries (77%), meeting with friends (71%), or eating at a restaurant (64%). A majority also feel safe taking public transportation (52%), a finding which starkly contrasts our results in other countries and cities, such as London.
Public perceptions of safety engaging in everyday activities in Taiwan may also be linked to widespread approval (62%) regarding how the broader Taiwanese public has handled the coronavirus crisis. Only 6% disapprove of how the Taiwanese public have handed the crisis, and 28% neither approve nor disapprove. However, approval in the public’s handling of the pandemic has declined slightly since July, when 72% expressed approval.
A final factor in Taiwan’s successful management of the coronavirus pandemic is likely to be the Government’s strict enforcement of rules. To achieve this, Taiwan established a “digital quarantine” system where those required to quarantine are monitored by a “digital fence” which utilises smartphone signal to inform the authorities if an individual has left a general area. The strength of the country’s monitoring abilities was encapsulated earlier this month, when a man was fined more than £2,600 after he left his hotel room for eight seconds while in quarantine. Overall, a strong majority (61%) say it is likely that they would be caught if they broke coronavirus restrictions. Majorities in all age groups, regions, and voters from all political backgrounds believe it is likely they would be apprehended if they disobeyed the law.
Ultimately, Taiwan’s success in handling the coronavirus pandemic has been emphasised by a recently published Lancet Journal article that has drawn attention to Taiwan as an example of good practice in combating the crisis. An increasing proportion (69%) of the Taiwanese public now feel that Taiwan has gained the global recognition it deserves for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.