What Did Italy Do Wrong and Taiwan Do Right?

By Simone Gao
Simone Gao
Simone Gao
April 1, 2020 Updated: April 5, 2020

Narration: 81 miles from China, Taiwan only has 282 confirmed cases. What did Taiwan do right?

Steve Bannon: Taiwan and South Korea are perfect examples of doing testing immediately.

Narration: The best healthcare system in the world in Lombardy is now collapsing. Will the US become a second Italy or worse?

Mr. Bannon: To me you have to crash. You have to shatter the curve.

Title: What Did Italy Do Wrong and Taiwan Do Right?

Host: Welcome to Zooming In, I’m Simone Gao. Data analysis by USA Today found that, two weeks after the US first entered into community transmission on March 3, America’s trajectory is trending towards Italy’s, where circumstances are dire. The way the situation has developed since then further supported the prediction. Will America become a second Italy, or even worse? Can lives and the economy be saved at the same time? What about one of the countries that most successfully contained the outbreak? What did Taiwan do to keep the CCP virus in check? In this episode of Zooming In, we look at facts and numbers, and we discuss these questions with some of the finest minds in the country.

Part One: What Did Italy Do Wrong?

Narration: This is the city of New York, the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, now as quiet as a remote rural town.

As of April 1, there have been at least 83,712 confirmed cases of the coronavirus or CCP virus discovered in the state of New York, including more than 47,439 in New York City. At least 1,941 people with the virus have died in the state, which has the largest number — around 40 percent — of confirmed cases in the U.S.

Yet, the peak of the pandemic has not arrived.

Host: Looking at official numbers, the United States has quickly surpassed Italy, and even China. Could Italy’s situation also happen in the U.S.? Both are G7 members, and have advanced healthcare systems. Here is how the Italian tragedy unfolded.

Narration: On March 28, Italy’s confirmed CCP virus cases reached 92,472, with a death toll of 10,023, the highest on the planet.

Five weeks ago, Italy barely had a CCP virus problem. Shops and cafes were open and tourists flowed in and out of the country’s holiday destinations.

On January 31, Italy reported its first two confirmed cases in Rome. Two Chinese tourists, who arrived in Milan on January 23 tested positive.

On the same day, Italy imposed a ban on flights from China. Businesses and schools remained open.

On February 21, only 3 cases were confirmed in the northern region of Lombardy. The individuals had not traveled to China, marking the first instance of local transmission in Italy.

Italian officials reported that an additional 14 people were diagnosed later in the day. Those who were infected were in proximity or in the same locations as the group that was diagnosed earlier in the day, according to the Associated Press.

The number then surged to more than 200 by February 24 and rose exponentially from there.

On March 10, Italy had imposed a nationwide quarantine, stretching its “red zone” from 16 million living in northern Italy to all 60 million people.

The Italian Prime Minister ordered the nationwide closure of all restaurants and bars, along with most stores.

The measure also banned all nonessential travel, except for work, medical reasons, or emergencies until April 3.

The country so far has the highest number of reported deaths outside China.

Host: How did Italy get here? What did Italy do wrong? I asked Steve Bannon, host of War Room Pandemic this question.

Bumper: Coming up, being one of the closest places to Mainland China, Taiwan, has kept the CCP virus in check. What did Taiwan do right?

Part Two: What Did Taiwan Do Right?

Narration: As of March 28, Taiwan, an island 81 miles off the coast of China, has reported only 282 confirmed cases and 2 deaths.

Life in Taiwan remains essentially intact with only large events being cancelled. Business, restaurants, and schools have stayed open.

Experts say that Taiwan’s results are largely due to its early response, at a time when the rest of the world seemed to be looking the other way.

On December 31, when Chinese officials notified the WHO of a mysterious pneumonia emerging in Wuhan, the Taiwan CDC began monitoring passengers arriving from Wuhan on the same day.

By January 5, anyone who travelled to Wuhan in the previous 14 days was screened.

On January 26, Taiwan became the first country to ban flights to and from Wuhan. It eventually banned all Chinese visitors on February 6.

Since identifying its first patient on January 21, the government has implemented 124 safety protocols. Among them is a big data tracking mechanism.

All people screened or quarantined for CCP virus in Taiwan are monitored by the government through a Mobile phone tracking system. If these people leave home, their phones will send a message to the local police department and the disease control center. They will also receive an alert on their phone that tells them to go back home.

South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong also tested widely for the virus and quarantined suspected cases. South Korea’s curve has recently flattened. Singapore and Hong Kong have not suffered a significant outbreak.

Mr. Bannon: Taiwan and South Korea are perfect examples of doing testing immediately, doing social distancing immediately through the action of their government, the local officials and basically the people who can govern themselves show that you can put this virus… I hope they continue on in Taiwan. They continue to be vigilant. Also by using the Malaria drug. So in Taiwan you saw action and there is an impact and in Italy, they wished it away and it didn’t work.

Host: By installing an early travel ban, performing early testing, and using a big-data tracking system, Taiwan has been able to locate where the virus is and therefore target it precisely. Can the rest of the world borrow Taiwan’s experience? It might be hard for countries like the U.S. to use big data tracking since it brings up questions of individual rights that we hold dear. Also, the United States has long passed the time of early prevention. Taiwan started screening Wuhan travelers on December 31. We are close to 4 months past that. So what can we learn from Taiwan’s success, then? I think what we learn from Italy’s failure and Taiwan’s success are essentially the same: Either you get control early, or it definitely gets out of control later. Following that rationale, how has the U.S. been doing?

Narration: President Trump put travel restrictions against China on Feb 2. At the time, this action was viewed as bold and premature by both democrats and some European allies. However, Dr. Fauci,  director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the early travel ban definitely made a difference.

Reporter: Do you think the travel ban has helped with that?

Dr. Anthony Fauci: I think it absolutely has. I think if we did not do that with China early on…

Narration: But despite early moves, the Trump administration seemed to have slowed down in reaction. As spiking new cases caused panic across the country, the administration came under criticism for a lack of urgency in issuing guidance to Americans.

President Trump responded to the criticism quickly.

On March 14, the U.S. imposed a 30-day restriction on travelers from Europe. On March 15, the CDC urged a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

So far, more than 20 states and cities, including Illinois, Washington state and New York City, have since announced the closure of all schools and stores, while public gatherings are banned in order to implement social distancing policies recommended by the CDC.

Despite the effort, the cases in the US had grown exponentially. As of April 1, the US has at least 186,101 known cases of the CCP virus and more than 4,300 people have died. Its official numbers have surpassed those of China and Italy. But we have to take into consideration that China’s numbers are not reliable. The virus has hit New York and Washington especially hard. About 40% of the confirmed cases in the nation come from New York.

In Michigan, the number of cases skyrocketed from fewer than 350 more than a week ago, to nearly 7,630 on April 1. Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans are seeing a rapid increase in cases, and officials there and in many other cities say they don’t have enough medical resources.

Host: The U.S. has passed the opportunity to become a second Taiwan, or even Singapore and Hong Kong, who did relatively early testing. Are there other options, besides draconian measures? If so, four months into the pandemic, the economic factor has greatly complicated that prospect. Coming up, we will explore if lives and the economy can be saved at the same time in the U.S.

Part 3: Can Lives and the Economy Be Saved at the Same Time?

Narration: The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy with cities locked down. Shops and restaurants are closed, and airlines have stopped flying. The Labor Department’s weekly report showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits skyrocketed to a record-breaking 3.283 million for the week ending March 21. It marked the largest single-week increase since the Great Recession of 2008.

Dow Jones plunged over 10,000 points from Feb. 19 to March 23. Other exchange indexes followed a similar curve. The market is entering a bear era.

Can lives and the economy be saved at the same time?

On March 27, the House of Representatives passed the $2 trillion emergency relief package after the Senate cleared the way the day before. On the same day, President Trump signed it into law.

The far-reaching legislation stands as the largest emergency aid package in US history. It represents a massive financial injection into a struggling economy with provisions aimed at helping American workers, small businesses and industries grappling with the economic disruption.

The market rallied 17% when it first saw the prospect of passing this bill.

Meanwhile, President Trump indicated he is considering partially opening up the country after the 15 day lockdown.

President Trump said at a press conference on March 23, “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. This isn’t a country that was built for this. We will again and soon be opening up for business. Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We’re not gonna let the cure be worse than the problem. And at the end of the 15-day period, we’ll make a decision as to which way we want to go, where we want to go, the timing, and essentially we’re referring to the timing of the opening, essentially the opening of our country.”

Host: President Trump’s former Chief strategist Steve Bannon has a different alternative though.

Mr. Bannon: I think the entire country should be locked down immediately. I think that New York city needs to be put under quarantine immediately. I think now we have the financial bridge to get us through the next 2, 3, or 4 weeks. If it is not enough, we gotta pass another one. This is not about stopping the virus and letting the economy collapse. You have to keep the economy going at a sustaining level. That’s what this cash infusion is about. You have to do that and you have to do more of it. To me, you gotta take dramatic, draconian measures today to reign this out of the system. The whole key is to get the host, the body, the human body out of the flow of where the virus is. If you don’t, it is likely to linger like it is. It is going to be as devastating as in Italy and it is gonna linger like it is in Italy. If you don’t get ahead like in Taiwan and South Korea, for a host of reasons we didn’t. We have passed that stage. We are in this stage now. To me you have to crash. You have to shatter the curve, not shorten the curve, not flatten the curve, you have to shatter the curve.

In addition, it’s about the accountability of the CCP. Senator Josh Hawley has put forward a motion that everybody that takes a penny in this bailout money, which will basically be almost every corporation, will have to immediately start to bring the supply chain back. There’s others like myself that are trying to push this. Anybody that takes this kind of money has to immediately sue the Chinese Communist Party in federal court to get the money back. There’s a discussion that a Navy War College professor put up that the CCP absolutely has liability for this. Larry Klayman who’s a strike lawyer here in the United States already sued the CCP for $30 trillion in federal court. Now I don’t know if any of those will stick. But the Chinese Communist Party has to turn over all the information related to the P4 lab in Wuhan, about how that started, to an independent body for review. Josh Hawley has put in his part of the deal for this to require a commission to be able to look into, a commission made up of the House and the Senate and other independent people, to look into the Chinese Communist Party’s behavior during this entire process. So they (the CCP) have to answer to the Chinese people. They have to answer to the United States. They have to answer to the world community of exactly what they did. At least we know they suppressed the information, I think, for 4 weeks to 60 days. We have to get to the bottom of exactly what the details were, why it happened, and how it happened, until anything could go forward with considering the CCP as a legitimate government. I don’t think the CCP is a legitimate government. I think they’ve now proven that they are a group of gangsters. Their oppression of the Chinese people… What they did to the Chinese people they’ve now done to everybody in the world.

Narration: In the late afternoon on Saturday, President Trump decided a quarantine on the state of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut is not necessary. Instead, he asked the CDC to issue a strong Travel Advisory. It is reported Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo said earlier that sealing off the states would be “Federal declaration of war’.

Meanwhile, as of the evening of March 28, the US has at least 121,285 confirmed cases of CCP virus and 2,043 people have died. If we are deceived by China’s numbers, then the U.S. has become the epicenter of the CCP virus in the world.

Host: The total number of cases in the U.S. has surpassed that of Italy. But because Italy is a much smaller country, the real curve of the US has not reached where Italy is right now.  So, does the U.S. still have a chance not to become a 2nd Italy? One would think the bottom line is: the U.S. cannot do less than what the Italian government did. The Italian government imposed a nationwide quarantine on March 10 and it is still in place as of today. The U.S. has not done so. However, even the most draconian measure cannot guarantine a 100% containment, simply because we still don’t know exactly how this virus works. Stay tuned for our continued coverage of the CCP virus or the coronavirus. I am Simone Gao, and you are watching Zooming In.

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Simone Gao