Fr Salustino Villalobos, a Columban priest from Peru ministering in Taiwan, explains how Covid-19 preventative measures there, such as wearing masks, have helped to tackle the virus and seen infection rates drop.
Taiwan is an island southeast of China with a population of about 24 million. Due to its proximity and business links, many Taiwanese people live in China, so it was thought that Covid-19 would strongly affect the Island.
Prevention measures have been innumerable since the disease emerged and the number of infected has been controlled since the pandemic began. These measures have involved the ecclesial sphere as well.
For example, Hisnchu Diocese, where Columban Missionaries do pastoral service, was the first to suspend Sunday Masses. And the use of masks, disinfectant alcohol of 75 degrees, control of body temperature, and social distancing have been necessary.
As a foreigner, at the beginning the requirements were uncomfortable, especially the use of masks since I was not used to it. Furthermore, as I wear glasses, it wasn’t easy to read with a mask. But over time, I got used to it since the use of masks was essential, even for Sunday masses, which were broadcast online.
It was complicated to buy masks at the beginning; you could only buy two units per week, as long as you have the national health insurance card.
Now you can buy 9 masks every two weeks; some businesses allow you to buy them in boxes and other preventative products are available to all.
During my time at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in the city of Taoyuan, people have always followed the rules given by the government. At no time has there been conflict due to preventive measures. People have collaborated in an exemplary way to prevent any contagion.
From the beginning, parishioners who had travelled to other countries were recommended to stay away from daily masses for at least fourteen days. The priority has always been that the people who came to the parish are safe.
Socially, life has not changed much. Public transport has been operating normally, the use of masks is necessary and the person who does not use a mask cannot board a train or bus, or they will be fined. Shopping malls and restaurants have not closed.
Taiwan has not had a single day of quarantine. Preventive regulations continue to apply even if there are no infections. It is a way of seeing safety in which the welfare of the community takes precedent over individual rights. People trust the authorities.
Local infections have been reduced; for the last 40 days, no new local cases have been reported. The situation is normalising little by little. I hope that the reality of other countries will soon improve as well.
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