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The shining example that is Taiwan’s Coronavirus response

Adnan Kayyali

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The shining example that is Taiwan’s Coronavirus response

Taiwan’s success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic is a well-known and referenced case study of how to respond to a global pandemic. The innovative use and implementation of new and existing technologies, as well as the Taiwan’s Coronavirus response is a case worth studying for any country seeking to prepare for any future crisis or calamity.

The country’s population is known for being tech-savvy. This fact combined with the government’s rapid and proactive response, taking no longer than 3 days to decide on the laws and guidelines behind using information technology, was a job well done by the Taiwanese government and people.

In addition to strict quarantine procedures, the government of Taiwan used edge computing, AI and data analytics combined with multiple digital platforms and IoT devices and infrastructure adapted to 3G and 4G networks. Without this, Taiwan would have had to rely solely on 5G network availability to deploy apps and data collection, leaving most citizens without anything at all.

The ability to spread verified, accurate and easily understood information to all citizens was the first big advantage of using these systems. The second was the ability to identify virus hotspots or risky zones, keep citizens alerted to relevant developments in real time and keep a close eye on the numbers, which in Taiwan were thankfully, quite low.

However, the government cannot take all the credit for Taiwan’s Coronavirus response. The nation’s tech-savvy and proactive population can be thanked for facilitating the distribution of necessary preventative gear and making sure that everyone had what they needed. The “name-based mask distribution system” came to fruition with great efficiency.

Thousands of Taiwanese citizens pooled their skills and resources to rollout digital tools, platforms, information systems, to aid their country through the pandemic.

Collectively, this endeavor successfully deployed tools including live maps with available mask buying locations, apps and communication systems, chat-bots and even a mask reservation system.

With such a system in place, masks were never out of stock, and at least most people got what they needed – avoiding the shortages that often follow ‘panic buying’.

Taiwan’s COVID-19 response sets an important example for future pandemics and shows how advanced technologies, even experimental ones, can be utilized for common good.

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Junior social media strategist with a degree in media and communication. Technology enthusiast and free-lance writer. Favorite hobby: 3D modeling.

MedTech

The pandemic’s hidden digital divide

Mounir Jamil

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Digital Divide

The current pandemic has really opened our eyes to the importance of interconnectivity. Lockdowns, curfews, and quarantines helped us realize how our progress and prosperity is a function dependent upon one other, and we can clearly see this on an individual-micro level and on a group-macro level (companies, groups, governments).

The larger the company, the more complex the ecosystem of partners and their interdependence. Studies show that this is particularly true in developing countries where brewing beer sustains millions of livelihoods dependent on a fragmented and traditional trade such as corner shops, grocery stores and small retail.

Naturally, as a company grows larger, a more complex ecosystem of partners is required, but what about smaller micro retailers? The current pandemic has shed light on a critical weakness for small retailers. In most developed countries, the general consensus is that citizens enjoy high speed internet access therefore transitioning a business from brick-and-mortar to online seems relatively straightforward (with some training and practice). However, when we look at other countries where Wi-Fi is not as readily available, or when citizens have to walk lengthy distances to access Wi-Fi, that’s when you understand the daily impact of the digital divide.

As the pandemic continues, access to technology becomes another source of vulnerability and inequality as smaller retailers struggle to make the shift to digital, which only makes it harder for them to deliver across their value chain. Businesses that played vital roles in their communities are now unable to meet the growing demands online.

The pandemic has forced us to face the issue of the digital divide; while some might think we are all moving toward a digitally enabled future, the reality is that there are many communities across the world still falling behind. The issue of what needs to be done rests in the hands of governments and leaders worldwide to ensure that digital inclusion is extended to all citizens and disadvantaged groups.

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MedTech

UK to rollout first-round of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

Mounir Jamil

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Pfizer BioNtech

The British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently gave the green light to rollout the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for commercial use in the UK.

The first batch of vaccines are already making their way to the UK, with 800,000 units expected in the coming days. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said that the NHS will do its part in contacting people for the vaccine shot.

Based on vaccine storage requirements (-70°C), hospitals will be the first to receive supplies since they already have the correct storage facilities; the first round will likely take place in hospitals for care home staff, NHS staff and patients.

While the typical vaccine usually takes 10 years to be fully accepted, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was developed and introduced in just 10 months.

The UK has ordered enough units to vaccinate 20 million people – around 40 million doses in total. These doses will be given out as soon as they are made available by Pfizer in Belgium. The first round is expected next week, and “several millions” will be made available throughout December said Hancock. He also added that the majority of the rollout will take place next year.

The vaccine will be free, and it will not be mandatory. In addition, there are 3 ways of vaccinating citizens in the UK

  • Vaccination Centers
  • Hospitals
  • In the community, with general practitioners and pharmacists

As we speak, 50 hospitals are on stand-by and vaccination centers in venues like conference centers or sport stadiums are now being set up. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will hopefully mark the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

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MedTech

New technology has made COVID-19 group tests possible

Adnan Kayyali

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COVID-19 group tests

An independent technology and product development company, The Technology Partnership (TTP) has developed CoTest, a pooled screening device for conducting COVID-19 group tests. 

The vaccine is coming but when and who will get it first still remains unclear, but what is for sure is that testing cannot stop now, or in the next year at the very least. TTP states that their solution allows tests to be done on up to 40 people at a time, revealing the result within 30 minutes.

The equipment used for testing is reportedly easy to handle – samples are taken the conventional way, through a nasal or oral swab.

“We believe this technology represents an important step forward in distributed screening capacity, reducing the risk of transmission and allowing organizations to take greater control over their health security, stay open and relieve pressure on central services”.

Given the easy use and transportation of the CoTest, businesses and institutions of all kinds may want to get their hands on it. Essentially the COVID-19 group tests are just one test, but for up to 40 people at a time. This is an empowering level of efficiency that can take the load off central testing centers and labs while providing a more immediate response.

“With support, it’s entirely possible that ‘CoTest’ could be in schools and businesses and being used as a key tool in how we manage the virus.” said Peter Crossley, product development lead at TTP. The cost efficiency of this technology becomes increasingly powerful as infection rates decrease and health security monitoring becomes key.”

TTP is seeking more partners to push their new COVID-19 group test solution, which could prove to be a crucial tool in the coming months and years. While the world waits for a vaccine, we will have to continue finding ways of mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

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