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Taiwan successfully used viral memes, animal mascots, and teddy bears to fight its coronavirus outbreak — here's the playbook

Taiwan coronavirus posterWalid Berrazeg/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images
  • Taiwan has reported less than 450 coronavirus cases, even though it never imposed a lockdown.
  • Part of Taiwan's success has to do with the fact that it restricted travel and isolated patients early.
  • It was also good at communicating with the public through viral memes, animal mascots, and other digital campaigns.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
More than four months after identifying its first coronavirus case, Taiwan has reported less than 450 infections. Only seven people of the country's 24 million have died.
Part of that success in fighting the virus was Taiwan's quick response: The state began to monitor incoming travelers from Wuhan for signs of respiratory illness on December 30, after Chinese ophthalmologist Li Wenliang warned fellow doctors about a possible outbreak resembling SARS. Then in January, Taiwanese officials began isolating every infected patient and tracing their contacts.
But a second key element of Taiwan's strategy was communicating with citizens through humorous stunts and digital campaigns. The state hired comedians to help craft viral memes, adopted animal mascots to inform the public about important safety information, and even used teddy bears to encourage social distancing at restaurants.
Audrey Tang, Taiwan's digital minister, said at the TED 2020 conference that her mantra is "humor over rumor." So Tang developed a strategy for delivering information about the virus in a fast, fair, and fun manner.
"The pandemic in Taiwan actually strengthened our democracy," she added.
Here are some of the whimsical strategies that helped Taiwan avoid a widespread outbreak without a lockdown.

Taiwan's digital ministry consulted with comedians to develop viral campaigns like this one featuring the state's premier, Su Tseng-chang.

Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

"Comedians are our most cherished colleagues," Tang said.
The cartoon featuring Premier Su Tseng-chang, she explained, reads: "We only have one butt, don't hoard, don't trust rumors." (The words "hoard" and "butt" sound the same in Mandarin.) It was developed in response to a rumor (started by a toilet-paper company) that toilet paper was running low in Taiwan.
"Because of that, the panic-buying died down," Tang said. "Because people think it's hilarious, they share it, but with no malice or toxic intentions."

The state's "spokesdog," a Shiba Inu named Zongchai, delivers safety guidelines to the public.

In the Facebook post above, Zongchai encourages citizens to communicate virtually with friends and friends. In a Valentine's Day post, Zongchai reminded people to wash their hands, stay sober, and practice safe sex.
"What if I am single?" the campaign read. Zongchai joked: "Stay home then!"

Other animal mascots, like this pigeon in a face mask, inform residents about travel restrictions.

Sam Yeh/AFP/Getty Images

The above cartoon, posted on Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Facebook page, announced a travel ban in February for foreigners who had traveled to China within the prior two weeks.
Tang said digital campaigns are accessible to the entire state: "In Taiwan, we have broadband as a human right."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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  • Mask-wearing and distancing at least 3 feet are the best defenses against coronavirus, according to a review of 172 studies


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