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COVID-19

Taiwan is “disturbingly normal,” but not immune to pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Sean McHenry May 8, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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People divided by plastic partitions, amid concerns of COVID-19, eat their food at Q Square in Xindian district, New Taipei City. Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Taiwan is “disturbingly normal,” but not immune to pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Sean McHenry May 8, 2020
People divided by plastic partitions, amid concerns of COVID-19, eat their food at Q Square in Xindian district, New Taipei City. Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

In Taiwan, many restaurants and stores are still open for business.

“I describe it as disturbingly normal,” said Arvin Chen, an American-born filmmaker who now lives in Taiwan. “Besides people wearing face masks and occasional temperature checks when you walk into certain restaurants, it’s pretty much life as normal. Which is, again, disturbing, but I guess slightly comforting.”

According to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker, Taiwan has one of the lowest coronavirus-related death counts in world and appears to have effectively limited the spread of the disease. Aggressive contact tracking and closed borders may be part of the reason.

But that doesn’t mean the economy is completely up and running. Chen, a filmmaker, hasn’t been able to shoot since the start of the crisis.

“I was supposed to shoot a movie here in April, and that’s not happening anytime soon,” Chen said in an interview with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal.

“We do shoot in like actual locations, meaning we need to rent out restaurants and hotels and hospitals,” Chen said. “I think people are still very wary of 50 to 100 crew members coming into locations.”

Travel and filming may be frozen, but Chen isn’t out of work.

“I also do some work in LA as a writer,” he said. “In a weird way, it hasn’t stopped. And it’s probably even picked up a little bit more because all you can do right now is development, right?”

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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