Taiwan hit 200 days without any domestically transmitted cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, highlighting the island’s continued success at keeping the virus under control even as cases surge in other parts of the world.
It comes as UK’s Test and Trace has recorded the highest ever weekly number of positive cases.
Taiwan’s Centre for Disease Control last reported a domestic case on April 12.
CDC officials noted the milestone and thanked the public for playing a role, while urging people to continue to wear masks and to wash their hands often.
Since the pandemic began, Taiwan has recorded 553 cases of Covid-19, and just seven deaths.
While it has stopped domestic transmission, it continues to record new cases in people arriving from abroad.
Taiwan has been pointed to as a success story in how to respond to the pandemic, especially considering its close business and tourism ties with China, where the virus first emerged late last year.
Questions remain, however, as to whether the island is truly free of the coronavirus.
Local media has been paying close attention to reports of people who tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving Taiwan.
Authorities said on Wednesday that they received notice from Japanese and Thai health authorities that three people who had recently left the island tested positive.
Yet Taiwan is still a success in light of the global scale of the pandemic, more than 44 million reported cases and 1.1 million deaths.
Its success has in part been attributed to acting very early on.
Taiwanese officials were checking passengers on flights from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic began, as early as December 31 for fever and pneumonia symptoms, according to researchers writing in Jama, a medical journal.
On January 20, the government formally initiated the Central Epidemic Command Centre to coordinate the government response between different departments and branches.
The government also communicated effectively about the importance of wearing masks, while trying to prevent panic buying and price-gouging by rationing them.
The island was also quick to tighten its borders, suspending flights from Wuhan on January 23, and banning the entry of Chinese nationals who reside in Wuhan.
Taiwan has a strict 14-day quarantine for all arrivals, whether Taiwanese or foreign.
Professionals with technical expertise led the response and messaging, such as Taiwan’s former vice president Chen Chien-jen, who is a trained epidemiologist.
Four in 10 close contacts of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England are still not being reached by the NHS Test and Trace system, at the same time as it recorded the highest ever weekly number of positive cases.
A total of 126,065 people tested positive for Covid-19 at least once in the week to October 21 – an increase of 23% in positive cases on the previous week and the highest weekly number since Test and Trace began at the end of May.
Some 60.3% of close contacts of people who tested positive were reached through the system in the week ending October 21 – up very slightly from 60.0% in the previous week, which was the lowest weekly percentage ever recorded.
For cases managed by local health protection teams, 97.0% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to October 21.
But for cases handled either online or by call centres, this figure was 58.1%.
Just 22.6% of people who were tested for Covid-19 in England in the week ending October 21 at a regional site, local site or mobile testing unit – a so-called “in-person” test – received their result within 24 hours.
This is up from 13.7% in the previous week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had pledged that, by the end of June, the results of all in-person tests would be back within 24 hours.
He told the House of Commons on June 3 that he would get “all tests turned around within 24 hours by the end of June, except for difficulties with postal tests or insuperable problems like that”.
Only 3.5% of people in England who used a home test kit for Covid-19 received their result within 24 hours in the week to October 21 – up slightly from 2.8% in the previous week.