Since the COVID-19 epidemic outbreak, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has issued prevention guidelines to schools nationwide. In compliance with government policy, most universities started the spring semester later than originally scheduled. On top of that, universities have taken several precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The Foundation for International Cooperation in Higher Education of Taiwan (FICHET) interviewed international students in Taiwan to find out how they are doing under these exceptional circumstances, and describes the preventive measures in place at each university.
Entering the Campus
Universities implemented access control and reduced the number of entrances to campuses. Visitors are required to register and pass a temperature check in order to receive a temporary permit. University staff wearing face masks are stationed at checkpoints located at entrances to campus and buildings. They check that the body temperatures of all entrants are below 37.5 Celsius and their hands sanitized. Jared Yee, who just returned to Taiwan from Canada in early February, has noticed that popular places now have smaller crowds, “but life is still going on, because of all the medical checks, tests and things that are being done.”
In the Classrooms
Prior to entering classrooms, students need to register their check-ins. The purpose is to keep track of potential transmission, in case an infection is reported. Darius Laguckas, a computer science major from Lithuania, has one class that is now delivered online since the beginning of the semester. At his university, all classes with more than one hundred students are delivered online. Darius reflects, “For group teamwork it's a bit more difficult to interact with classmates… We still meet up with teammates for the programming assignments.”
Wearing Face Masks
In Taiwan, international students can use their Alien Resident Certificates (ARC) to purchase surgical face masks at pharmacies or simply place orders via a government mobile application. For exchange and visiting students, universities provide them with face masks free of charge. Jack Piáo, a Chinese literature major from South Korea, wears face masks on public transportations and in classrooms after the outbreak. Mason Maas, a student from the U.S.A., says that he did not buy any face masks himself because compassionate Taiwan friends keeps him in good supply. Julia Shankin uses a face mask cover that can be washed and reused: “I see people wearing these mask covers and I thought it’s a very smart idea.” Julia is thereby able to reuse the surgical face masks she bought at her home country.
Juliano Parena Jr., a mathematics PhD student from Philippines, returned to Taiwan in January and experienced first-hand the strict procedures in place at the airport. Having lived in Taiwan for four years, he is reassured that, “health-wise, we [international students] don't have a problem because we have our [Taiwan's] national health insurance cards”. Universities in Taiwan are committed to the health and safety of everyone in their academic community. During the pandemic, everyone needs to stay calm and adapt to the new measures for combating the epidemic. With mutual efforts, we will get through this exceptional challenge together.