|This wave of COVID-19 snuck in by surprise. Starting in mid-May the number of cases started to rise. By the May 19, Taiwan was on soft lockdown.
In the past, diseases such as SARS and H1N1 heavily impacted indigenous villages. Therefore, Taitung’s indigenous population has been very stringent in terms of disease prevention.
Despite this, some people have wanted to visit Taitung’s indigenous communities. Travel is a major strain on indigenous communities during an outbreak because of their limited medical facilities and large elderly population.
Starting on May 18, Lidao, a village on the Southern Cross-Island Highway, closed itself to visitors. The village council has also prohibited outsiders from visiting popular destinations such as Lisong Hot Spring, Jiaming Lake and Jiemaosi Mountain.
Darumak Village, another tourist destination, attracts people hoping to escape the summer heat. Knowing this, residents closed off their village to outside visitors. They set up disease prevention stations at the village entrance. These stations register when residents come and go as well as teach people about disease prevention.
In Taimali, the Center for Family Services went a step further. They placed hand-painted signs around the village to spread disease prevention awareness. These signs are written in Chinese and the local indigenous language. This ensured that all of the elderly residents could learn about disease prevention protocols such as wearing face masks, hand washing and social distancing.
Some feared social distancing would be especially challenging for the elderly in indigenous villages. Many elderly residents go to Indigenous Culture Centers for in person social support. Fortunately, Indigenous Culture Centers adjusted after this recent COVID-19 outbreak. Now residents can get “care calls” via telephone and have lunches delivered to their houses.
These indigenous tribes have the support from the Taitung County Government. On June 4, Taitung County Magistrate April Yao visited one of the indigenous disease prevention stations. Magistrate Yao stated their hard work has let many people quarantine at home in peace and comfort.
Even though indigenous communities are stricter than others, it’s for good reason. Keeping COVID-19 away from the young and elderly is of the utmost importance.